MADISON — A gender discrimination lawsuit filed by former economic development director Joy Hikel against the town has been settled out of court for a sum that town officials refuse to disclose.

“The parties have reached an amicable settlement,” reads a joint statement released to the Morning Sentinel on Tuesday. “The Town and its officials recognize the good work and results achieved by Joy Hikel during her tenure as the Town Economic Development Director and wish her well in her current and future employment endeavors.”

The case had been scheduled to go to trial next Monday on counts of gender discrimination, retaliation and violation of the federal whistle-blower protection act. Hikel served as the town economic development director from 2008 to 2012, but she said she was fired after she filed a complaint that two male department heads got pay raises and extra vacation time and she did not.

In the suit, Hikel alleged that the town punished her for complaining — taking such actions as excluding her from meetings, moving her office to the back of the building, giving her extra supervision and finally taking her job away. The case eventually rose to the federal court level.

Town Manager Dana Berry, who did not work for the town at the time of the original complaint but was involved in the decision to end Hikel’s contract, said he had no further comment on the lawsuit.

Hikel also declined to comment.


According to court records, she was seeking at least $126,000 in back pay, $100,000 in damages and $300 for medical costs she says were the result of a medical event suffered from the stress of the lawsuit.

Financial details of the settlement have not been released, but the Morning Sentinel has filed a request citing Maine’s Freedom of Access laws and asking for information related to the settlement.

“Ms. Hikel was subjected to public humiliation in a small central Maine town and could not encounter any acquaintance, after her termination, who did not, at some point, raise the subject of what had happened to her with the Town of Madison,” wrote Hikel’s lawyer, A.J. Greif, in court records. Greif also declined to comment beyond the joint statement.

Notice of the settlement was filed in court last month, and the attorneys were given until Oct. 10 to file papers agreeing to have the suit dismissed. The trial was scheduled to begin Monday, and attorneys had estimated that it would have lasted four days.

Several motions were filed last month in an effort to limit evidence that could be presented if the case had gone to trial.

In court papers filed as the parties prepared for a possible trial, Hikel claimed that the town was trying to submit unfair evidence to bolster its case.


Papers filed for Hikel asked the court to refuse to allow several areas of questioning pursued by the town’s attorney, Mark Franco, when he questioned Hikel under oath at a pretrial deposition. Hikel’s attorney, Walter Grief, argued that Hikel was asked about several issues that “should never be raised before the jury,” including a dispute with Skowhegan’s road manager about the planting of flowers and a dispute with a tenant in rental property she owned as evidence that she was hard to get along with.

Franco asked that Hikel be barred from talking about an alleged stress-related event in which she fainted on a plane while returning from a trip to Florida. He also asked the court not to allow testimony about a statement Hikel claimed Berry had made during a dispute about Hikel’s refusal to allow the public to trespass on her property to reach a take-out spot for canoes and kayaks. Hikel claimed that Berry warned her that if she continued to refuse access through her property, there could be repercussions at Town Meeting. Franco argued that the statement had no bearing on whether the town discriminated against Hikel. The town also sought to bar Grief from claiming to the jury that Hikel had been fired.

None of the motions to limit evidence at the trial was ruled on by the presiding judge before the attorneys notified the court that a settlement had been reached.

The town maintains that Hikel’s contract was not renewed and she was not fired, although she was placed on permanent leave three days after selectmen voted not to renew her contract in March 2012.

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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