Waterville paper settles lawsuit filed by reporter over gay marriage email

By Judy Harrison, BDN Staff
Posted Dec. 07, 2011, at 9:52 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — MaineToday Media has settled a lawsuit filed by a former reporter who claimed he was illegally fired in 2009 because of his religious views on same-sex marriage.

In February 2011, Lawrence J. Grard, 60, of Winslow sued the Portland-based owner of the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Portland Press Herald in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

A notice of the settlement was posted Monday on the federal court system’s electronic document filing system. Details of the settlement were not filed with the court.

“The only thing I can say is that the matter has been resolved,” Michael Messerschmidt, the Portland attorney representing the newspaper, said Tuesday.

Grard’s attorney, Patrick Boyd of New York City, made an almost identical statement Wednesday.

“The matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of both parties,” he said.

Confidentiality agreements that prevent settlement details from being made public are common in employment lawsuits that involve private businesses.

Grard, an 18-year veteran reporter at the Morning Sentinel newspaper, was fired in November 2009 after his employer discovered that he responded to an email from an organization that favored same-sex marriage, according to previously published reports. He claimed that MaineToday Media violated the federal Civil Rights Act and the Maine Human Rights Act when it fired him.

A Roman Catholic, Grard alleged that the company discriminated against him because of his religious beliefs and fired him in retaliation for complaining about his treatment to the Maine Human Rights Commission.

The commission did not rule on the former reporter’s complaint but issued a right-to-sue letter in November 2010.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk earlier this year dismissed the retaliation charges but allowed Grard’s religious discrimination claim to go forward.

Grard sought back pay and benefits, compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. He said in April 2010 that as a Christian, he was offended by some of the rhetoric contained in an email from the Human Rights Campaign of Washington, D.C., that blamed the outcome of Maine’s Nov. 3, 2009, same-sex marriage vote on hatred of gays. Using his private email account while at work, Grard, who has said he thought the email would be anonymous, responded: “Who are the hateful, venom-spewing ones? Hint: Not the Yes on 1 crowd. You hateful people have been spreading nothing but vitriol since this campaign began. Good riddance!”

Grard was fired a week later, according to the complaint.

http://bangordailynews.com/2011/12/07/business/waterville-paper-settles-lawsuit-filed-by-reporter-over-gay-marriage-email/ printed on July 23, 2014