The city fired a pregnant employee who asked for less dangerous work, according to a suit

Good evening from the BDN Portland office on Congress Street. Hillary Clinton accepts her party’s nomination for president tonight. Follow our live coverage here after 7 pm.

What we’re talking about

The city last year abruptly fired a pregnant administrative worker who had requested to be temporarily reassigned from her daily work at the Oxford Street Homeless Shelter, where she had been exposed to “hazardous and dangerous conditions,” the woman claimed in a discrimination suit filed today.

Over her two months on the job at the shelter, Emily Norris was exposed to improperly disposed of needles, aggressive clients and at one point — while one month pregnant — was “nearly” kicked in the stomach by a homeless man in the clutches of a grand mal seizure, according to the complaint filed in federal court, which you can read here

Because of these incidents and the resulting stress, Norris’ doctor recommended that she stop working at Oxford Street while pregnant, according to the complaint.

On Oct. 1, Norris told her supervisor, Senior Human Services Counselor Aaron Geyer, that she was two-months pregnant, and asked to be exempt from her usual three to four hours of daily work at the shelter for the duration of her pregnancy, according to the documents. Norris worked as a financial eligibility specialist, interviewing people for their applications for benefits through the Department of Health and Human Services, according to the complaint.

She said that she could have temporarily filled the time she would have otherwise been at the shelter doing other administrative tasks, the documents say.

Norris went to work as usual the day after she told her boss that she was pregnant, but on the next work day, she was called into a meeting with Geyer, and a human resources employee, Krista Morris, the suit says. Geyer told Norris that she was not a “good fit” because she’d taken “too many sick days” and was being fired, the documents allege.  

The suit states that Norris had previously taken three sick days, for which she provided a doctor’s note, and missed two more half days of work due to car troubles and illness. She informed Geyer of each of these issues prior to missing work and had an excellent employee record, according to the suit.

Norris pressed Geyer, asking if she was being fired because she was pregnant, the complaint states. “No,” he said according to the documents, allegedly adding, “I don’t have to give you a reason.”

A city spokeswoman initially said that the the city would have no comment until it had reviewed the complaint and later added, “We have no comment as we don’t comment on personnel matters.” Geyer, who is not named as a defendant in the suit, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Norris has requested a trial by jury. She alleges that she was discriminated against “based on her pregnancy” in violation of the rights to equal protection guaranteed by United States and Maine constitutions. She is seeking reimbursement for lost pay and benefits; compensation for emotional pain caused by her firing; costs associated with seeking new work; damage done to her reputation; and legal fees. — Jake Bleiberg

Correction: A previous version of this post cited court documents alleging Norris was kicked in the stomach while on the job. She was “nearly” kicked, the complaint states. The post has been updated. 




How the system failed a Maine family, landing a mentally ill son in jail — Beth Brogan has today’s must-read story:

As elected leaders, medical professionals and the media debate how to deal with Maine’s opiate addiction and mental health crises, Shannon Gilliam lives amid the fallout of a system that’s failed her son.

“She is angry with emergency room physicians who twice released Brandan Gilliam after brief holds. She doesn’t understand how a psychiatrist could have been convinced by her son that he was stable.

“She’s frustrated that law enforcement often isn’t able to offer a solution that doesn’t involve jail.

“She’s even angrier at a mental health system she says has failed her son, and her family, since he was diagnosed — a process she says took two years.”

Lyft is trying to recruit drivers — even a city councilor — Jake reports: Jon Hinck, who works on transportation regulation as chair of the City Council Committee on Environment and Sustainability, said he learned that Lyft was looking for local drivers about a week and a half ago, when the company sent him a message inviting him to join its team behind the wheel.

“‘I knew they were coming because I was solicited to be a driver,’ said Hinck, who is traveling and could not immediately pass along the message he had been sent. ‘They were looking for drivers and talking about the different policies they have from Uber.’”

Remembering the day Rudy Vallee came home — Troy Bennett went to great lengths to find these old photos that document the triumphant return of Maine’s most famous crooner. Make sure you watch Troy’s rendition of “Vagabond Lover,” which he performed by Vallee’s grave in St. Hyacinth’s Cemetery in Westbrook. 

Big ideas

Everything you ever wanted to know about net metering, but were too scared to ask — Truth time: I always kind of nodded when someone in the office talked about net metering, pretending to know what it really meant. Here, Darren Fishell explains what it is and why it’s controversial.

Trump lies more often than Clinton. But Americans think she’s more dishonest. Here’s why’ — Kim Soffen writes in Wonkblog: “No one will ever know what exactly Clinton’s intentions were with her private email server, but anyone could find that the majority of Mexican immigrants are not, in fact, criminals and rapists. This makes Clinton’s deceptions appear more like ‘cover-ups,’ [Wheaton College psychology professor Matthew] Gingo says, which harms her public perception.”


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Dan MacLeod

About Dan MacLeod

Dan MacLeod is the managing editor of the Bangor Daily News. He's an Orland native who moved to Portland in 2002 and now lives in Unity. He's been a journalist since 2008, and previously worked for the New York Post and the Brooklyn Paper.