Former UO Counselor and colleague file federal lawsuit against u - KPTV - FOX 12

Former UO Counselor and colleague file federal lawsuit against university

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A former University of Oregon counselor resigns from the job and is now suing the school.

Jennifer Morlok says both she, and former colleague Karen Stokes, were punished for speaking out against the school last year, claiming that U of O lawyers inappropriately accessed a rape victim’s medical records.

The two filed a joint lawsuit in federal court Monday evening. 

Morlok and Stokes tell FOX 12 they’re not suing the university for money, but rather to take a stand for what happened to them.  Adding that they hope to influence a change in policies and procedures at the counseling center.

Morlok said her decision to resign comes after a very difficult year of working in an environment that allegedly turned hostile toward her.

“I held on to hope that change would happen and that the support from speaking up would happen, and it just never did,” said former Senior Staff Therapist Jennifer Morlok.

The two say they were treated differently, after they found out university lawyers wanted unauthorized access to a rape victim's patient records, and they tried to stop it.

 “I received an email from my supervisor asking to print out the records for a particular client and when I went to get the file, I saw that there was a ‘no release’ in the file, so I questioned that, it was not normal,” said former executive assistant Karen Stokes.

“I went to Jenny, because she was the counselor on record for this student, and we talked about it.  She confirmed there was a 'no release' in her file, so that’s what triggered the process,” added Stokes.

While that girl isn't named in the lawsuit, the timeline of the case matches up to the girl known as "Jane Doe," who claimed three Oregon basketball players gang raped her at a party last March. 

“They were really looking at getting the file and it’s not in the best interest of the client for sure.  So, then what would they use it for,” said Morlok. "In my opinion, in a case like this, if there’s an opposing side wanting clinical information, then they’re likely going to try to use that information against the client.”

The two tell FOX 12 they wrote a letter of concern publicly outing the involved parties, for which, they say they were scrutinized, isolated and discriminated against.

“Just knowing what we did was right, has carried me through all of the things that we've gone through,” said Stokes. “There’s not one day that goes by that we wouldn't say that we wouldn’t do anything differently.”

The two say they made the decision to file a formal lawsuit against the university, because things never got any better and they fear things will never change.  They now believe legal action is the best way to hold administrators accountable.

“I have daughter that’s college aged, and I would hope that someone would stand up for her and say this isn’t right,” said Stokes.  “We’ve got to take better care of our students, especially those in pain.  That’s what we were there for.  I think that gets lost and all of a sudden it’s not about the students, it’s about something else.”

In a statement released to FOX 12 related to Morlok’s resignation, VP for Student Life Robin Holmes says:

“We are sorry Ms. Morlok elected to end her employment with the university.  The university was committed to providing Ms. Morlok with a supportive work environment and was prepared to offer her several alternative workplace scenarios.  We regret that she chose not to pursue any of these options and would welcome her reconsideration. The university remains dedicated to eliminating sexual misconduct on campus and ensuring that survivors receive the confidential support and counseling they need. While we disagree with various assertions in Ms. Morlok’s resignation letter, as an institution of higher education that welcomes and encourages diverse viewpoints and voices, we are fundamentally opposed to anything that can be construed as workplace retaliation against those who air critical views or opinions.”

UO Administrators tell FOX 12 they have yet to see a copy of the federal lawsuit, and therefore could not comment on those specific allegations.

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