PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A longtime employee at Reed College filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against them after being denied the ability to work from home though the 2022 school year.
Clea Taylor, who was hired at Reed College in 2010, was promoted to Co-Director of Residence Life in 2020. The court filing, obtained by KOIN 6 News, showed Taylor had stellar work reviews and compliments over the way she had done her job over the years.
When the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, Taylor was among the Reed College employees who continued their jobs while working from home. Her 2021 work review described her as “a valuable and dependable member of the Student & Campus Life Team” who “created housing processes that support students and provide housing security.” She was given a raise in a letter from the president of the college on June 15, 2021.
In July 2021, Taylor returned to the Reed College campus for her day-to-day work.
The next month Taylor began receiving emails from a Reed College student “who claimed to be a recovering meth addict” who was afraid “of relapsing, being beaten and being sexually assaulted.” Taylor went through the regular channels to help the student and sought help outside the department for this student.
Beginning in October 2021, the student began making unfounded allegations — that Taylor tried to give her drugs and have sex.
Taylor alerted her bosses. Soon, she was called to a meeting with a Dean to discuss the issues involved. On October 26, 2021, the college told Taylor “none of the student’s claims were credible” but shared nothing further.
The incident, though, caused Taylor emotional distress and suffered severe anxiety and regular panic attacks, the lawsuit stated. She applied for leave through the Family Medical Leave Act and the Oregon Family Leave Act to go through January 3, 2022.
Taylor was later diagnosed with adjustment disorder with anxiety and PTSD. She submitted a request with medical documentation requesting she be allowed to work from home from January through the end of the 2022 Reed College school year.
But her request was repeatedly denied and, according to the lawsuit, was told to either show up for work on March 7 at the campus or she would lose her job the next day.
At that point, Taylor hired a lawyer. Reed College reversed their ultimatum but placed her on an indefinite “unpaid leave.”
Taylor remains on unpaid leave from the college, which “has not explained why she cannot perform the essential functions of her position with the accommodation of remote work, nor has it explained why it would be an undue burden to the institution to grant such accommodation.”
Taylor seeks $287,500 in damages — $37,500 in pay and the rest in reputational damage.
Reed College spokesperson Mary Keister told KOIN 6 News by email: “We take employee safety and health seriously. Given the ongoing nature of the litigation, it would be premature to comment specifically about the allegations in the lawsuit.”
KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.