Maine Investigator Claims Retaliation and Gender Discrimination

An investigator with the Maine State Fire Marshal’s Office has filed suit claiming he was denied a promotion in retaliation for his having testified before the state legislature on a pension bill, and on account of his gender. Mark J. Roberts filed suit in US District Court for the State of Maine naming the State Fire Marshal’s Office and Fire Marshal Joseph E. Thomas as defendants.

Roberts claims he was passed over for promotion to sergeant after testifying in support of a bill to lower the years of service requirement for investigators from 25 to 20 years. The change was warranted on account of the exposure of investigators to hazardous substances and would be funded through surplus funds in a dedicated fund controls by the fire marshal.

The bill passed, which allegedly angered his boss because of the impact it would have on his ability to use the surplus funds. When Roberts then sought a promotion, a female with less seniority and experience was promoted despite Roberts being the most highly rated candidate by a selection committee.

The suit alleges Roberts had a First Amendment right to testify in support of the retirement bill, and to advocate for its passage. Roberts claims the state retaliated against him for exercising his rights, violated Maine’s whistleblower law, and discriminated against him on account of his gender.

Here is a copy of the complaint.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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