PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A Portland Bureau of Transportation employee claims his superior hazed him by shooting him with a compressed air gun, and he believes he was fired in retaliation for reporting details of the alleged abuse.
In a complaint recently obtained by KOIN 6 News, PBOT utility worker Russell Wilkinson said he was hazed after being hired in August 2016. Just a few months later, he took part in an investigation and disclosed details of the alleged abuse.
The focus of the city personnel investigation was Wilkinson’s crew leader, Jerry Manson, who Willamette Week said has been working for PBOT for 11 years.
According to Willamette Week’s report, the investigation found Munson had been shooting at his subordinates with a compressed air gun for years.
Hayden Rich, another PBOT employee, “said he was shot with BBs, popcorn kernels and hard candies,” his first day on the job, Willamette Week’s report states.
Several other employees reportedly said they endured the same abuse. Even though the shots were “painful” and “left welts and bruises”, the employees said they felt they couldn’t do anything because of the “no-snitch” culture within the agency.
With no one speaking up, the alleged abuse continued. Willamette Week said a new employee was duct taped and locked in a room just last October.
Several condemnatory accounts were included in the investigator’s report, which concluded by calling for Munson’s termination. But he reportedly kept his job.
In January 2017, Wilkinson said he moved to another shift because his “coworkers were treating [him] badly” after learning he had participated in the investigation.
A month later, he lost his job. Wilkinson and his lawyer said they believe the firing was retaliatory in nature. Now the Bureau of Labor and Industries is on the case.
KOIN 6 News reached out to PBOT for comment on the ongoing investigation:
“We did take appropriate action to address this situation. Employee safety is of paramount concern to us, and we are taking steps to address the issues of hazing and bullying raised by this incident.”
Commissioner Dan Saltzman said he was “disgusted” by the allegations:
“As Transportation Commissioner and member of this community, I want to express my disgust by the behavior and culture described in the report and the WW article. I have a zero tolerance policy for bullying and hazing of any kind and will be developing an updated HR policy for PBOT that makes that clear for both employees and supervisors. I will not tolerate this.”