News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Black Butte Ranch faces $13.5 million lawsuit

(UPDATED June 30 to include statement from Black Butte Ranch).

Nine people who worked at Robert’s Pub on Black Butte Ranch have filed a $13.5 million lawsuit alleging that they were sexually abused and harassed by long-time Ranch server Michael Woosley — and that the Ranch and its managers failed to act to correct and stop Woosley’s actions.

Attorneys Christopher Larsen of Pickett Dummigan McCall LLP and Jason Kafoury of Kafoury & McDougal held a press conference in Bend on Thursday, June 27, shortly after the lawsuit was filed. Plaintiffs Brody Anderson and Colin Palmer described an environment of ongoing harassment, which allegedly included inappropriate sexual innuendo, groping, and incidences in which Woosley slapped workers in the pub kitchen.

“It was a daily thing, and it was a daily thing for all the victims,” Anderson said.

The alleged conduct goes back at least as far as June 2021, the attorneys said.

The most serious allegations led to criminal prosecution of Woosley. In those instances, young workers reported in July of 2022 that they had been groped by Woosley. The lawsuit alleges that Robert’s Pub manager Georgio Glinsky told one of the plaintiffs not to go to the police.

According to the suit, four employees did go to the Black Butte Police Department, which launched an immediate investigation.

The police took it seriously, Anderson said. “We felt like we finally had a voice for the first time.”

Woosley was arrested, and quietly took a plea deal in June 2023, in which he pleaded no contest to two counts of Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree and one count of harassment involving three young Robert’s Pub workers. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and placed on probation. He was fired from the Ranch.

The attorneys for the nine plaintiffs argue that Black Butte Ranch and several management-level personnel should be held accountable for allegedly failing to correct and stop Woosley’s behavior.

“Quite frankly, they didn’t do anything about it,” attorney Chris Larsen said. “This is a $13.5 million lawsuit to hold not only Mr. Woosley, but Black Butte Ranch and its managers, accountable. The Ranch is responsible for the actions of its employees. He (Woosley) was … in a position of influence and power.”

Woosely was a popular server at the Ranch for decades, working both at the Lodge and at Robert’s Pub.

“Defendant Woosley was employed by BBRC and/or BBRA (Black Butte Ranch Corporation/Black Butte Ranch Association) for over 30 years and was known as ‘Mr. Black Butte’ by owners, managers, agents, and employees of BBRC and/or BBRA. Their adoption and allowance of defendant Woosley empowered and elevated Woosley to a special status which he exploited. Woosley was extremely popular amongst those dining at the Ranch’s Lodge and Robert’s Pub, which included Black Butte Ranch homeowners, their families and guests, and members of the public.”

The attorneys argue that the Ranch knew or should have known that there were issues regarding Woosley’s conduct.

“Woosley had a reputation for sexual harassment and misconduct against staff prior and during his agency and employment with defendants prior to being assigned to Robert’s Pub and thereafter,” and, “Woosley continuously subjected employees to pervasive and offensive unwanted touching, and verbal and physical sexual abuse.”

According to the plaintiffs, “…defendants failed to take any corrective action to prevent Woosley from continuing the abuse, failed to remove him from the workplace, and retained him in a supervisory role of subordinate employees, including plaintiffs. These acts and omissions authorized and empowered Woosley to continue his duties training and supervising subordinate employees while perpetrating his sexual assaults and harassment of Robert’s Pub employees, including plaintiffs.”

Kyle Cummings, CEO of Black Butte Ranch, said, “Though we are still learning, we take this suit extremely seriously and reiterate our strong support and compassion for the employees who experienced harassment,” and “Our top priority has always been, and will continue to be, creating a safe and welcoming environment for our employees, homeowners, and guests.”

In a statement provided to media, BBR said, “Our leadership team will continue to work with our community to provide as much transparency as possible regarding our efforts to keep the Ranch a place that is welcoming and safe for all.”

A letter from Cummings to the homeowners and employees of Black Butte Ranch can be found with the online edition of this story.

The attorneys stated at the press conference that anyone who experienced harassment or assault at Woosley’s hands should contact police and/or the attorneys.

The attorneys also announced at the close of Thursday’s press conference that they were meeting with the Deschutes County District Attorney to advocate for additional criminal charges against Woosley.

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit www.frontierpartisans.com.

 

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