Veteran Fort Kent trooper contests firing, suing state over alleged discrimination and harassment

By Julia Bayly, BDN Staff
Posted Jan. 23, 2013, at 12:36 p.m.

FORT KENT, Maine — After being suspended with pay for close to four months pending the results of an internal investigation, an 18-year veteran of the Maine State Police has been fired for what he was told was “misuse of state time.”

Stanley Jandreau is fighting his dismissal through the union representing state troopers and is pursuing complaints against the state for discrimination and workplace harassment through the Maine Human Rights Commission and a civil lawsuit filed in Maine Superior Court.

In its response to the civil suit, the state denies Jandreau’s allegations.

Jandreau says he was notified of his dismissal verbally during a Jan. 16 meeting at the Houlton barracks and in a letter dated Jan. 11, 2013, signed by Col. Robert Williams, chief of the Maine State Police.

Jandreau, who was assigned to the state police commercial vehicle enforcement unit, has said he was not given an official reason for being placed on administrative leave in the first place while he was the subject of an internal investigation, other than it being for “various reasons.”

In November, Stephen McCausland, spokesman for the Maine Department of Public Safety, confirmed the investigation but would provide no further details.

On Tuesday, McCausland referred questions to Williams, who said he is unable to comment because of the pending civil lawsuit.

In his letter of termination to Jandreau, Williams cites a Dec. 3, 2012, letter to the former trooper stating he was notified of the conclusion of that internal investigation and of proposed actions based on those findings.

Neither Williams nor Jandreau would discuss the specific contents of that Dec. 3 letter. Jandreau would only say on Wednesday morning that he was told he was fired for “misuse of state time.”

For his part, Jandreau contends the leave and subsequent dismissal are directly related to litigation and complaints he filed with the Maine Human Rights Commission and in Superior Court alleging discrimination and a hostile workplace stemming from a 2002 diagnosis of narcolepsy, a sleep disorder that causes excessive sleepiness and frequent daytime sleep attacks.

Jandreau’s allegations are documented in the civil complaint filed in Aroostook County Superior Court in Caribou on May 2, 2012, against the Maine Department of Public Safety and the Maine State Police.

Jandreau alleges in the suit that for nearly a decade he was subject to continued workplace harassment and discrimination including having an open can of tuna fish placed under the seat of his cruiser, police equipment removed from his cruiser and instances of calls for radio information to fellow officers ignored.

The suit further accuses fellow workers and supervisors of making statements to federal law enforcement officials claiming Jandreau “was not believable” and “to question [his] drug and crime information.” Jandreau further alleges that state police “issued orders that applied specifically to him or have only been enforced relative to him.”

In all, the acts ranged “from severe threatening, embarrassment and humiliation to merely offensive conducts and shunning,” according to the documents.

The suit demands injunctive relief, unspecified compensatory and civil damages and legal fees.

Jandreau’s attorney, Ted Smith of Van Buren, did not return repeated calls and text messages from the BDN seeking comment.

The state is represented by Susan Herman of the attorney general’s office, who on Tuesday said she is unable to comment on the open case.

According to a computer check by a District Court clerk, that civil case remains open after a motion requested by Jandreau for an unspecified time extension to gain testimony from an expert witness. The motion was granted on Jan. 3.

Jandreau’s civil suit follows a Feb. 3, 2012, right-to-sue letter issued by the Maine Human Rights Commission in response to a complaint the former trooper filed in August 2010 and amended in November 2011 alleging the workplace discrimination and harassment.

According to the civil suit documents filed in Superior Court in May, Jandreau was terminated once before from his position as a state trooper from Dec. 29, 2002, after the narcolepsy diagnosis and his subsequent request for workplace accommodations.

“The treatment at the time was a combination of medications and, most importantly, maintaining a regular sleep cycle,” Jandreau said in an interview last week. “There were jobs I could do within the state police that would allow that.”

In the court documents Jandreau alleges his request for light duty was denied and he was forced to seek family medical leave while pursuing a complaint against his employer through the Maine Human Rights Commission.

According to Jandreau, that complaint was sealed in 2003 when he and the Maine State Police reached a confidential settlement and he was reinstated on July 17, 2003. He returned to work as a trooper within the commercial vehicle enforcement unit, a position Jandreau said allowed him to maintain a regular work schedule and sleep cycle pattern.

However, in the ensuing decade, Jandreau alleges he has been the target of constant workplace harassment and discrimination and been forced to work in a hostile work environment.

“I really figured their behavior would change sooner or later,” Jandreau said this week in discussing why he waited close to 10 years to file his civil suit. “But after awhile I realized it was not going to stop and it was going to keep growing until it turned into a monster [and] I began to feel I was being deliberately targeted.”

In its answer to Jandreau’s lawsuit filed May 18 in Superior Court, the state denies all allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination and states that Jandreau failed to take advantage of the complaint processes made available to him within the department.

The state further contends in its response that the Maine State Police and Department of Public Safety officials attempted to work with Jandreau “in good faith” but he failed to cooperate.

The state also contends Jandreau does not qualify as a person with a disability and requests the suit be dismissed.

While the civil suit plays out, Jandreau is fighting his termination through his labor union, the Maine State Troopers Association.

Last week William K. McKinley, general counsel to the Maine State Troopers Association, confirmed he is representing the union in contesting Jandreau’s recent firing.

While declining to comment on specifics of the Jandreau case, McKinley did say in general terms that under his contract and according to state labor laws, “for an employee to be terminated there must be just cause and it is our belief and Jandreau’s belief there is not just cause to support termination.”

McKinley said the next step is to file an appeal of the termination with the state’s bureau of employee relations.

“This is not a quick process,” McKinley said, adding if the appeal is unsuccessful with the employee relations bureau, the final step is court arbitration.

Jandreau said all he wants is his job back.

“I love being a state trooper,” he said. “But I also want to fight this for the next guy [because] I can tell you discrimination does happen and I don’t want what happened to me to happen to someone else.”

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/01/23/news/aroostook/veteran-fort-kent-trooper-contests-firing-suing-state-over-alleged-discrimination-and-harassment/ printed on July 31, 2014