Former Register-Guard reporter Serena Markstrom Nugent filed a more than half a million dollar discrimination lawsuit in 2015 against the paper when she was fired after becoming pregnant. That lawsuit was dismissed in 2016, but as of today, Oct. 10, the suit’s dismissal has been overturned by the state Court of Appeals.
News of the appeal was confirmed by Markstrom Nugent’s lawyer, Chris Lundberg. Lundberg sent EW the opinion, or explanation, accompanying the appeal decision. The opinion states that the case has been “reversed and remanded.”
When EW asked if the successful appeal would result in a new trial, Lundberg responded that he was not sure and, “We are still analyzing the opinion.”
Markstrom Nugent was fired by the RG in 2014, after working at the paper for more than a decade as an arts and entertainment writer. The paper said she was fired for being “dishonest, insubordinate and having destroyed company property” in the form of deleting work-related emails while on pregnancy leave, according to prior reporting from EW.
She sued the paper about a year and a half after her firing. The case went to trial at the Lane County Circuit Court, but was dismissed by Judge Josephine Mooney.
Former RG employee and co-president of the paper’s union, Randi Bjornstad, was also fired for similar allegations after Markstrom Nugent. Bjornstad challenged her firing, and an arbitrator overturned it in 2017.
She was a lead witness in Markstrom Nugent’s trial, according to EW.
“I had high hopes that the Court of Appeals would recognize the inappropriate actions of Circuit Court Judge Josephine Mooney to dismiss a case right before it was supposed to go to the jury, especially given her comments from the bench — multiple times — that she was not basing her decision on the merits of the case,” Bjornstad tells EW via email.
She adds, “This whole episode has taken a tremendous toll on Serena and her family, and I hope that this decision will offer them the relief that they richly deserve.”