Kimberly Babcock vs State of Oregon, Department of Human Services

Parties Involved

  • Plaintiff: Kimberly Babcock
    • Counsel for Plaintiff: Kevin T Lafky
  • Defendant: Department of Human Services
    • Counsel for Defendant: State of Oregon | Tracy Ickes White

Verdict Information

  • Verdict date: April 11, 2024
  • Total damages awarded to the Plaintiff: $400,000
    • Economic Damages: $100,000
    • Non-economic Damages: $300,000

About the Case


Plaintiff, Kimberly Babcock, a Caucasian Disability Analyst in DHS’ Disability Determination Services (DDS) since 2008, had participated in a Halloween costume contest on November 1, 2021. She submitted a photo dressed as “Cartoon Dog” from the Anime genre, a favorite character of her autistic daughter. On November 3, 2021, the photo was uploaded to a shared drive but was soon removed after a complaint.

On November 4, 2021, Plaintiff explained to Operations Manager Alicia Bowman that she meant no offense. Bowman acknowledged this. However, on November 10, 2021, Customer Services Manager Rachelle M. Avery sent an email describing a “visceral” reaction to the costume, likening it to “classic blackface.” Subsequently, Program Director Jay Minten sent an email on November 12, 2021, admitting a failure in maintaining a culture of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Plaintiff received a 24-hour notice of an HR meeting scheduled for November 22, 2021, but DDS Union stewards declined to represent her. Mike Beebe agreed to represent her. During the November 24, 2021 meeting, Plaintiff clarified that her costume was not intended to be offensive. The incident caused her significant mental stress, leading to short-term disability leave. On February 2, 2022, Minten sent another email discussing the emotional trauma caused by the incident.

On February 10, 2022, a coworker revealed that Julia Candis claimed credit for labeling the costume as blackface. Plaintiff filed a Worker’s Compensation claim on February 23, 2022, due to mental health injury. HR later revealed someone had circulated a cropped version of her photo to misinterpret it as blackface. On September 26, 2022, Bowman formally stated the costume evoked racist imagery, and on October 18, 2022, HR concluded Plaintiff violated workplace policies. Subsequently, she filed a complaint alleging discrimination, retaliation, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and defamation.


As a result of Defendants’ unlawful actions, Plaintiff was forced to use various forms of leave, including short-term disability and unpaid leave under the Oregon Family Leave Act. Consequently, Plaintiff sustained approximately $45,000 in lost income, benefits, and medical expenditures. Additionally, Defendants’ actions caused Plaintiff severe mental and emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, grief, shame, humiliation, embarrassment, anger, disappointment, sleeplessness, and worry.

Defendants and their employees sent multiple disparaging emails over several months, damaging Plaintiff’s reputation in the office and leading to profound anxiety and worry. This intentional conduct resulted in severe mental and emotional distress.

Furthermore, Defendant’s negligent conduct directly caused Plaintiff economic damages through medical bills, lost income, and out-of-pocket expenses. The defamatory publications led to severe emotional distress, manifesting as embarrassment, grief, humiliation, shame, anger, worry, and profound anxiety.


Plaintiff demanded $345,000 in total for her claims. Babcock sought $45,000 in economic damages, including potential future economic losses, and $300,000 in non-economic damages. Additionally, she requested for attorney’s fees, costs and any other relief the Court might deem fit. Babcock also requested a jury trial.

Jury Verdict

On April 11, 2024, a twelve panel Oregon jury deliberated over the claims presented and awarded the Plaintiff $400,000. They found the Defendants to be guilty of negligent infliction of emotional distress and of violating other legally protected interest of Babcock. Accordingly, Babcock was awarded $100,000 in economic damages and $300,000 in non-economic damages.

On April 12, 2024, Judge Amy Queen denied Defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Court Documents:

Available upon request