HR Manager Sued After Sending Offensive Cake

An Oregon-based property maintenance firm is facing allegations of harassment from a former employee. The lawsuit states that the company’s HR representative delivered a cake bearing an inappropriate design and message to the employee.

Steven Urenda, previously worked as a janitorial operations manager at Aspen Ridge Property Services, and Dasher Lights LLC is seeking damages exceeding $500,000. He alleges that he had to resign due to an escalating hostile workplace atmosphere. The lawsuit, filed in Multnomah County court, details an incident in May 2022. Urenda claims he received a package containing an inappropriately shaped chocolate item and a derogatory message.

Urenda, who is Hispanic, was deeply offended by what he perceived as racial undertones associated with the package, especially given the racial identity of his partner and their biracial child, who saw the box.

Jessica Carlin, an employee in the human resources department, allegedly sent the package. Her identification details were mistakenly left on it. Prior incidents in the lawsuit suggest a tumultuous relationship between Urenda and Carlin. Carlin reportedly had used derogatory language referring to Urenda in discussions with upper management.

Before this incident, Urenda had issues with Jessica’s husband, Patrick Carlin, a subordinate. Urenda had criticized Patrick for complaints about a workplace task. Days later, Jessica had an unusual apology session with Urenda about her previous remarks about him.

However, the subsequent receipt of the inappropriate package left Urenda feeling marginalized and targeted at the company. While Jessica admitted to sending the package, claiming it was a reaction to issues with her husband, Urenda felt the company owner, Matthew McCaslin, did not adequately address his concerns. Even after her confession, Jessica retained her position. Urenda was only given a nominal apology in the form of a gift card.

Urenda contends that the company’s investigation into the incident lacked professionalism and transparency. He alleges further workplace hostility, with instances of sabotage, which eventually led to his resignation in July.

Commenting on the case, Urenda’s attorney, Daniel Le Roux, stated: “The unacceptable behavior exhibited by a senior staff member, particularly from the HR department, is deeply concerning. My client faced not only harassment but also subsequent retaliation. Companies in Oregon should know that such egregious actions will be challenged.”