July 12, 2011

Reporter loses bias, retaliation claims against MaineToday Media

The federal magistrate judge's recommendation next goes to U.S. District Court for a ruling.

Kennebec Journal

BANGOR - A reporter who was terminated over his use of company computers has lost two claims against MaineToday Media in a decision recommended by a federal magistrate judge.

Lawrence J. Grard sued his former employer in U.S. District Court in Bangor, saying he was a victim of unlawful discrimination based on religion and a victim of unlawful retaliation when he was fired Nov. 10, 2009. The claims are made under federal civil rights and state human rights acts.

The company denies all the allegations in its court response.

Grard's complaint describes him using his personal email account on a work computer on Nov. 9, 2009, to respond to a news release from the Human Rights Campaign about the defeat of same-sex marriage legislation.

The filing says Grard "believed that the campaign's press release was anti-Christian," and that he believed his emailed response to same-sex marriage proponents would be anonymous.

Grard, of Winslow, had worked for the Portland-based publishing company and its predecessors for almost 19 years, most recently in the Waterville office of the Morning Sentinel.

MaineToday Media, which also owns the Kennebec Journal and The Portland Press Herald, had asked the court to dismiss the retaliation claims. Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk recommended that the court do so.

Attorneys for both sides have until July 18 to object to the decision recommended by Kravchuk, and then it goes to U.S. District Court Judge George Z. Singal for a ruling. In most cases, recommended decisions are affirmed.

The claims of religious discrimination also remain, and docket entries indicate the case should be ready for trial next January.

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