A federal judge in Bangor has overruled objections filed by the town of Madison against claims made by a former employee that she was discriminated against and eventually fired because of her gender.

In a decision issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby stated that there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial on claims of sex discrimination, retaliation and violation of the federal whistle-blower protection act. A trial date has not yet been set, although jury selection is scheduled for Sept. 9, according to court records.

The order overturns part of a recommended decision issued last month by a U.S. magistrate judge, who had said that there was not enough evidence to support the gender discrimination claim made by Joy Hikel, the town’s economic development director from 2008 to 2012.

“On her sex discrimination claim, the plaintiff provided evidence as to how the actions and decisions (amount of raises and vacation time; budget scrutiny; yelling by town manager; move to a new office), when compared with treatment of other similarly situated personnel, correlated specifically with gender,” wrote Hornby in the order.

According to Hikel, who could not be reached for comment on Friday, she was treated differently at work after filing a complaint with the Board of Selectmen when two male department heads got pay raises and extra vacation time, but she did not.

In her original complaint filed with the U.S. District Court in March 2013, Hikel claims that after she made the complaint she was excluded from meetings, given extra supervision and had her office moved to a smaller room in the back of the building.

Magistrate Judge John Nivison recommended that the sex discrimination claim be dismissed, writing that there was not enough evidence to “support a finding that gender was the true reason behind certain adverse actions, including the Town’s decision to end [Hikel’s] employment.”

She also sought to sue the town on claims of retaliation, whistle-blower retaliation and withheld wages. The town, which is represented by Portland attorney Mark Franco, has sought to overturn all four claims. The wages claim was dismissed by both judges, but the other three claims will be considered at trial.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]


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