October 23, 2013

Fired Maine border officer wins $285,000 settlement

The Rangeley woman said her supervisor told her ‘a woman’s place is in front of the oven’ and disparaged her Catholicism.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A former U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer in Maine has received a $285,000 settlement payment from the government after filing a federal lawsuit last year against the Department of Homeland Security.

Rebecca Albert Carnot

Courtesy Rebecca Albert Carnot

The lawsuit filed by Rebecca Albert Carnot accused her supervisor of discrimination and creating a hostile work environment based on gender and religion. It also said the supervisor retaliated against her for filing a complaint by firing her.

Carnot’s attorneys reached a settlement agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in May but did not disclose details of the agreement until the settlement payment was delivered earlier this month. In exchange, Carnot has agreed to dismiss her lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

Carnot, who lives in Rangeley, claimed in the lawsuit that she was improperly fired by her male supervisor, Gregory Pease, in January 2011 after she had worked at the Coburn Gore border crossing port for about a year and a half.

In her complaint, Carnot accuses Pease of repeatedly telling her that “a woman’s place is in front of the oven,” that a woman should have her husband’s supper “hot and ready” when he gets home, and that unmarried couples living together at the same address were “living in sin.” The complaint said he also disparaged the religious Masses of Carnot’s Catholic religion as “more of a gym workout than a service.”

Carnot claimed that Pease retaliated against her after she filed an employment discrimination complaint against him with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September 2010. She was fired while she was away on approved medical leave recovering from surgery, according to the complaint.

Carnot’s attorney, Jeffrey Young of Topsham, said that as a result of the settlement, Carnot’s termination has been rescinded and she is now considered to have resigned.

Young said the Coburn Gore border crossing port had only 12 to 15 employees at the time Carnot worked there, including many who belonged to the same fundamentalist Christian church in Stratton and held the same beliefs about women and religion as Pease.

“The supervisor brought his fundamentalist church beliefs into the workplace. In this country, we celebrate your right to have beliefs, but you do not have the right to impose your beliefs on other individuals,” Young said. “Their view of the world is that there’s a place for women in society, and their view is that a woman should remain at home and raise the family and be a homemaker for the husband.”

An attorney from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which represented the Department of Homeland Security, did not return a phone message seeking comment.

Carnot, now 34 and married to the man she had been dating while working at the border station, said she has worked as a store manager in Rangeley since shortly after she was fired by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Carnot said that while she enjoys her new job and co-workers, she still blames Pease and others who worked at the border port, saying they “ruined my career in law enforcement.”

“I was in a trusted position with the government. My paperwork was always in order,” Carnot said. “I did my job. I loved my job. But I hated the bullying that went on when I worked there.”

Carnot said she doesn’t feel vindicated by the settlement, although her termination was rescinded, because none of the people responsible for the discrimination were punished.

“I’m disappointed with the government, with how they didn’t discipline any of the responsible parties,” Carnot said. “I didn’t do this for the money. I did this to clear my name.”

Carnot, who was still in a probationary position when she was fired, was not allowed a hearing to contest her termination, although union officials supported her case, she said.

Scott Dolan can be reached at 791-6304 or at:sdolan@pressherald.comTwitter: @scottddolan

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