Transgender Oregon Department of Human Services Employee Sues for Discrimination

A state worker claims his superiors have mistreated him since transitioning from male to female. An Oregon state employee who is transg*nder has filed a complaint against the state’s Department of Human Services, claiming he was subjected to discrimination, a hostile work environment, and a reduction in his potential for promotion due to his transition.

Last Monday(April 24) in Marion County Circuit Court, Alex Pelusi, under his previous name Alessandra Pelusi, filed a case against the Oregon Department of Human Services. The former head of the Aging and People with Disabilities Program at the agency, Ashley Carson Cottingham, is at the core of many of the claims made by Pelusi in the lawsuit.

Transgender Oregon Department of Human Services Employee Sues

According to the complaint, Carson Cottingham pledged to assist Pelusi in getting started in his new profession with the state after he was recruited in December 2016 as an executive support specialist, a position for which Pelusi claims he is overqualified.

The complaint claims that Pelusi’s transition process was evident immediately after he began working for the agency and that he looked feminine when Carson Cottingham questioned him. Eventually, the complaint said, “(Carson) Cottingham’s once friendly behavior took a turn.”

In addition to his current role as head of the Salem-Keizer School Board, Carson Cottingham is the deputy director of the Oregon Long-term Care Ombudsman’s office, another state entity. Even though she is notΒ a defendant in the case, she and several former superiors are named in the complaint.

A representative for Carson Cottingham and the Department of Human Services refused to comment on the case, but they did confirm that Pelusi still works at Carson Cottingham. The lawyer for Pelusi also declined to comment.

“Specifically, (Carson) Cottingham displayed hostility and demoted plaintiff when he began the confirmation process and raised complaints regarding inequitable and unequal treatment,” the lawsuit states.

In the words of the court, “It became increasingly apparent that (Carson) Cottingham and other executive staff expected (the) plaintiff to identify as female and exhibit stereotypical feminine qualities.”

According to the complaint, Carson Cottingham allegedly stated to Pelusi at one point, “I don’t even know what to call you anymore,” after Pelusi began using male pronouns and the name Alex.

The complaint claims that Carson Cottingham ultimately offered Pelusi the option of accepting a demotion or being dismissed for “personal reasons.” When Pelusi took on more responsibilities at work, he asked to be reclassified and was rejected, he claims, preventing him from advancing in his career.

After Pelusi informed HR, he started having pan!c episodes and needed time off for that and gender confirmation surgery.

The complaint claims that Pelusi met with temporary program director Mike McCormick in the early summer of 2020 after Carson Cottingham had already left the organization.

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McCormick had pledged to assist Pelusi in gettingΒ back on track. In response to his inquiries, the complaint claims McCormick repeatedly urged him to “stay tuned” for many months.

Damages for gender identity discrimination and retaliation for reporting breaches of the law are sought, along with $650,000 in back pay for the wage decrease and lost career chances after his dismissal.

A reinstatement of his previous position is also requested in the complaint. The government agency has yet to file a response in court.

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Jessa Martin

Jessa Martin is an accomplished news writer with a passion for keeping the community informed about the latest events and happenings in Hillsboro and the surrounding areas. With a keen eye for detail and a knack for storytelling, Jessa has become a go-to source for breaking news and in-depth reporting.As a news writer for, Jessa covers a wide range of topics, from local politics and government to community events and human interest stories. Their writing is always informative, insightful, and engaging, offering readers a deeper understanding of the issues that matter most to the people of Hillsboro.

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