A Gorham woman claims that Cumberland County Jail administrators illegally revoked the security clearance that allowed her to work at the commissary after she reported concerns about safety precautions during a COVID-19 outbreak last year to state health authorities.
Anne Kozloff, 60, worked for the Keefe Commissary Network LLC, a Missouri-based firm, which has a contract to service commissaries and vending machines in Maine jails. After administrators at the Portland jail revoked her security clearance, Kozoloff was forced to take a pay cut to work at a different jail, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Portland.
Kozloff is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, including lost wages, claiming the loss of her security clearance was in retaliation for the report to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Her case is part of a growing number of labor lawsuits nationwide alleging coronavirus-related labor and employment violations. Such lawsuits in Maine have included allegations from a Portland convenience store employee that he was fired for refusing to serve maskless customers and that a Lincoln supermarket demoted an assistant manager when she reported to management that customers and employees weren’t following virus protocols.
Kozloff was hired in November 2012 as a commissary representative assigned to the Cumberland County Jail, the complaint said. She was jointly employed by Keefe and the county, but was supervised directly by jail employees, according to the complaint.
A coronavirus outbreak at the facility in April 2021 forced it into a lockdown. Despite that, Kozloff allegedly was told by Michelle Noyes, an administrative secretary, to report to the jail on April 6, 2021, to restock the commissary and vending machines with items available for purchase by inmates. When Kozloff reported to the jail, she was at first refused entry due to the lockdown but eventually was allowed into the jail but told to avoid the quarantine pod, the lawsuit said.
During her shift, Kozloff visited the jail kitchen, where inmate workers approached her about restocking the vending machines in their pod, the complaint said. The inmates allegedly were assigned to the quarantine pod but had been allowed out to help prepare meals.
Out of concern for her safety and the safety of others in the jail, Kozloff filed a suspected non-compliance report with the Maine CDC, which launched an investigation as a result, the complaint said.
On April 14, 2021, a representative from Keefe allegedly told Kozloff that her security clearance at the Cumberland County Jail had been revoked.
The defendants in the case, in addition to Cumberland County and Noyes, are Keefe and jail Capt. John Costello.
Cumberland County Sheriff Kevin Joyce declined comment Wednesday because he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit.
Kozloff’s attorney, Samuel Riotte of Topsham, said his client filed a report with the CDC “because what she experienced in the jail during the pandemic made her concerned about the health and safety of herself, her coworkers, and her community.
“Maine law is clear that employers can’t punish employees who raise concerns like this about their workplace,” the lawyer said. “But that’s exactly what happened to Ms. Kozloff.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article listed an incorrect title for Michelle Noyes.