Court won't halt Bend dentist's $348,000 penalty for mandatory Scientology-based training

The Oregonian/April 23, 2013

The Oregon Court of Appeals has denied a Bend dentist's request to halt a $348,000 penalty levied last year by the Bureau of Labor and Industries.

The agency concluded Dr. Andrew W. Engel threatened to fire an assistant if she didn't attend a Scientology-related training session. Eventually she quit and, facing high unemployment in Central Oregon, moved out of state to find a job.

BOLI ruled the woman was harassed because of her religious beliefs while working at AWE Dental Spa, and concluded Engel didn't fulfill her request for secular training.

In October, the agency ordered Engel to pay $348,000, including $325,000 in damages for mental, emotional and physical suffering. Engel petitioned the Appeals Court to review the penalty in November.

The court decided Thursday the request didn't provide enough supporting information, and denied the motion. BOLI made the decision public Tuesday.

Commissioner Brad Avakian said he was pleased with the ruling. "We will hold employers accountable if they violate employees' civil rights," he said in a press release issued by the agency.

A message left for Michael Gordon, a Portland attorney representing Engel, hasn't yet been returned. A recorded message at AWE Dental Spa said the practice is temporarily closed because of a transition, but expects to resume operations sometime in April.

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