AUGUSTA — A Department of Environmental Protection employee has filed a lawsuit claiming she was unfairly demoted from her job as coordinator of a program to protect children from harmful chemicals for testifying as a private citizen against a bill that would have ended the program.

Andrea Lani, an environmental specialist at DEP, filed the lawsuit Oct. 12 against Commissioner Patricia Aho, Ronald Dyer, director of the department’s bureau of remediation and waste management and DEP in U.S. District Court in Bangor, claiming her free speech rights were violated under federal law and she was discriminated against as a state employee.

State law protects state employees from threats and discrimination for testifying before a legislative committee on their own time as a private citizen.

Aho referred questions about the lawsuit to the Attorney General’s Office, which declined to comment about the complaint.

“We are reviewing the complaint and will respond in due course of the litigation,” said Brenda Kielty, Attorney General William Schneider’s spokeswoman.

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