Fired customs officer says supervisor’s conservative views created hostile work environment

Posted May 01, 2012, at 5:49 p.m.
Last modified May 02, 2012, at 9:10 a.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A fired U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer has sued the Department of Homeland Security in federal court, alleging that her former male supervisor created a hostile work environment by repeatedly demeaning the role of women outside the home, discussing his conservative Christian views and treating her differently from her male co-workers.

Rebecca Albert Carnot, 33, of Rangeley claimed she was illegally fired in January 2011 after working in the Coburn Gore border crossing station for two years.

A Maine native, she is seeking reinstatement, compensatory damages, lost wages and benefits and legal expenses. Carnot claimed in the lawsuit that her former supervisor said that a woman should not be involved in any capacity in law enforcement and had a duty to obey her husband in accordance with the Bible.

He repeatedly invited Carnot to attend his Protestant church, even though he knew she was a Catholic, the complaint alleged. He also advised Carnot to court but not date because dating involved having sexual intercourse and courting did not, the lawsuit said.

After officers in the Coburn Gore station took part in a marijuana seizure, the supervisor allegedly gave gift card bonuses to all the officers involved except Carnot. She initiated the investigation that led to the drug seizure, according to the complaint.

Carnot was fired while on a preapproved medical leave. The supervisor left a termination packet on her doorstep in violation of her privacy, the complaint alleged.

Carnot’s attorney, Jeffrey Neil Young of Topsham, filed the complaint Thursday against Janet Napolitano, secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which includes Customs and Border Protection, in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

The suit was filed after Carnot received a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The U.S. attorney’s office in Maine has not yet received a summons in the case, according to Evan Roth, head of the civil division, located in Portland. It is the practice of the U.S. Justice Department not to comment on cases until they have been concluded.

In the complaint, Young alleged that Carnot was discriminated against on the basis of sex, retaliated against for filing a complaint about the discrimination, and subjected to a hostile working environment based on sex and religion.

Carnot no longer works in law enforcement, Young said Tuesday.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Carnot was a border patrol agent. Carnot is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer.

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