The American Eagle Outfitters store is shown Tuesday in the Marketplace At Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — A former employee of the American Eagle Outfitters store in Augusta says in a lawsuit that the company discriminated against her because of her sexual orientation and disability.

The woman, Allison Kurasz, who now lives in Ohio, says she was told she was suspended due to “situations” at work, one day after telling a store manager she was dizzy and explained she needed a break due to a heart condition that can cause dizziness and fainting. A request for a break is a reasonable accommodation for that disability, she contends.

The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court on May 8, is supported by a Maine Human Rights Commission investigator’s report last year finding reasonable grounds that unlawful discrimination had occurred. Prior to that commission finding, American Eagle officials ignored the investigator’s requests for evidence.

Kurasz said four days after her suspension she was fired, with no clear reason given to her by a district manager of the clothing shop, who only told her she was being let go because of “issues” the manager didn’t identify or explain. She worked as an associate and cashier with the store for about a month in 2021.

Kurasz’s lawyer, Chad Hansen, of the Portland law firm Maine Employee Rights Group, states in the lawsuit that American Eagle had still not provided a written reason for Kurasz’s termination. The lawsuit states Kurasz’s personnel file contained a document showing that her domestic partner is a woman; and that the personnel file did not contain any documents citing a reason why she was fired, nor did she receive any coaching, disciplinary warnings, or performance-improvement plans.

Kurasz, who is a lesbian, said about two weeks after she started working for American Eagle’s store at the Marketplace At Augusta she was asked to meet with a district manager and store manager, who told them that a male co-worker had complained she made him uncomfortable by asking for a ride home. The lawsuit states there were no further issues between Kurasz and that worker.


But Kurasz said she was harassed by other co-workers, who gossiped and lied about her and bullied her. The harassment was so bad, the lawsuit states, there were several times that she sat in the bathroom at work and cried. She complained to the district and store managers and told them about the harassment on Nov. 7, 2021, according to the lawsuit.

Ten days later, following the conversation with management about being dizzy and needing to rest, she was told she was being let go. She has Wolfe Parkinson White syndrome, an extra electrical pathway between the upper and lower chambers of her heart, which can cause dizziness, a fast heart rate, and fainting.

“Ms. Kurasz’s personnel file does not contain any documents relating to or reflecting any complaints made about Ms. Kurasz, about Ms. Kurasz’s harassment complaint about co-workers, or about the reason Ms. Kurasz was fired,” the lawsuit states. “Ms. Kurasz was treated differently and less favorably than the male coworker who complained he felt harassed when Ms. Kurasz asked him for a ride. The male employee was not fired after he complained. Ms. Kurasz is female and lesbian. She complained that she was harassed by coworkers. Ms. Kurasz, who is female and lesbian, was fired after she complained.”

American Eagle did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit. According to federal court documents, the company was notified about the lawsuit and has not yet filed a response.

The lawsuit requests a jury trial and Kurasz seeks to be either reinstated in her job or awarded back pay and lost future earnings.

Kurasz also seeks:


• Compensatory and punitive damages to be determined at trial, and a document placed in Kurasz’s file explaining that American Eagle unlawfully terminated her because of unlawful discrimination and retaliation.

• To have American Eagle prevented from engaging in any employment practices that discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, disability, and protected activity.

• Requiring the company to post a notice at all its workplaces of the verdict and mail a letter to all employees notifying them of the verdict and stating the company will not tolerate discrimination or retaliation in the future.

• And requiring that the company train all management-level employees on the protections afforded by the Maine Human Rights Act.

In August of 2022, Kurasz filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging unlawful sex, sexual orientation, and disability discrimination and retaliation by American Eagle.

In September of 2023, a Maine Human Rights Commission investigator’s report found reasonable grounds that unlawful discrimination had occurred. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a “notice of right to sue” on May 7 this year and the lawsuit was filed the next day.

Angela Morse, the Maine Human Rights Commission investigator who handled the complaint, wrote in her report that American Eagle officials were given notice of the complaint and an opportunity to respond, but they did not respond to the commission’s request for documents or provide any reason to the commission for Kurasz’s firing.

“Because respondent failed to articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for complainant’s discharge, complainant has met her burden in showing that there are reasonable grounds to believe that unlawful discrimination occurred,” the investigator’s report stated. “It is found that respondent terminated complainant’s employment due to sex, sexual orientation, and/or disability discrimination.”

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