BANGOR, Maine — A federal judge has ruled a former Orono fire chief’s lawsuit against the town may go forward on the age discrimination and retaliation counts.
U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivison on Wednesday dismissed Norman “Buddy” Webb’s allegation that he was discriminated against based on a disability.
Webb, 65, of Orono, is seeking compensatory damages, including back pay and pay he would have received had he not been fired, and attorney’s fees.
The former fire chief, who worked for the department for 29 years, sued the town in Penobscot County Superior Court in May 2014 after receiving right-to-sue letters from the Maine Human Rights Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to court documents. The next month, the town moved the lawsuit to U.S. District Court in Bangor. Edward Benjamin and Jenna McCormick, the Portland attorneys who represent the town, filed a motion for summary judgment June 30, 2015. The judge held a hearing on the motion on Aug. 31.
Webb claimed he was fired by Town Manager Sophie Wilson on June 14, 2012, the day she learned he had filed a complaint with the MHRC. Wilson cited the “without cause” provision of Webb’s employment agreement when she fired him rather than stating the cause of his termination, Nivison wrote in his 18-page ruling.
If the lawsuit is not settled, the case most likely would be tried next year before a jury in federal court in Bangor.
“Buddy is looking forward to having a jury decide his claims,” Webb’s attorney A.J. Greif said Wednesday. “Losing the disability claim has no effect on Buddy’s claim for damages, as he can recover those same damages under the retaliation or age claims.”
McCormick said Wednesday that “the town is pleased that it won summary judgment on the claim for disability discrimination, as Ms. Wilson did not discriminate against Mr. Webb. With respect to the claims for age discrimination and retaliation, the court noted that there were disputed facts and, thus, concluded that such claims should be decided by a fact finder,” she said.