Rockland City Hall Credit: Stephen Betts

A former Rockland city assessor has filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that the city fired her two years ago because she was temporarily disabled after suffering a concussion in a car accident.

Doreen French’s attorney filed the lawsuit Tuesday, more than six months after French was issued a right to sue letter from the Maine Human Rights Commission. French was hired to serve as the city’s assessor in February 2016. French did not previously work for the city. In December 2016 she was allegedly fired.

Ann Freeman, Rockland’s attorney, declined to confirm whether or not French’s employment was terminated by the city. At the time of French’s departure, Rockland’s previous city manager, Audra Caler-Bell, said French stopped working for the city for personal reasons, according to the Courier Gazette.

French claims the city “intentionally terminated [her] employment” due to the concussion “because [the city] regarded her as being disabled,” according to the lawsuit. She is asking for a jury trial to provide injunctive relief and is seeking back pay, lost employment benefits and compensatory damages, according to court documents.

In November 2016, French was in a car accident and suffered a concussion which compromised her ability to work, according to the lawsuit. Following the accident, French told the city she would need about six weeks of leave to recover. She initially was granted 12 weeks of leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

In a letter from French’s doctor, submitted at the request of the city around Dec. 12, it was stated that the “estimated amount of leave need” would be about six months, according to the lawsuit. In a Dec. 12, 2016, correspondence with the city’s human resources officer, French was told that she was wrongfully granted the 12 weeks of medical leave. Because she had worked for the city for less than a year, she did not qualify for medical leave under state and federal regulations. The lawsuit states that French was also asked to meet with the human resources officer, the city manager and an outside consultant Dec. 20.

Prior to the meeting, French said she told the city manager that she would likely be able to return to work part-time in January and work up to full-time status in February. However, at the Dec. 20 meeting, French was allegedly told by the city manager that her employment was being terminated, according to the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, French’s attorney, John P. Gause, alleges that the city of Rockland violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Maine Family Medical Leave Requirements and the Maine Human Rights Act.

Only employees who have worked for an employer for 12 consecutive months qualify for medical leave under the Maine Family Medical Leave Requirements and the Federal Family Medical Leave Act.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Freeman had not had a chance to review the lawsuit and therefore declined to comment on the matter. However, with the two-year statute of limitations on the alleged discrimination being marked on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018, Freeman said they had an idea that a lawsuit would be coming soon.