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Maryland town hopes to dodge wrongful termination lawsuit

Officials with the town of Berlin, Maryland, are requesting that a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former EMS supervisor be dismissed, arguing that the plaintiff's claims that the town did not have the authority to fire him are invalid. The motion comes several days after the town voted to suspend financial aid payments to its fire department, a decision motivated by issues related to the wrongful termination claim.

The town initially demoted the plaintiff after receiving formal complaints accusing the former supervisor of harassing and discriminating against his employees at the EMS department of the local fire company. While the details of the alleged misconduct were never made public, the plaintiff filed a formal grievance in response to his demotion. The town responded by firing him, a move the plaintiff argues it did not have the authority to make.

The lawsuit argues that the town wrongfully "coerced the fire department to effectuate" the plaintiff's termination by threatening to cut off its funding. He argues that the chief and president of the fire had sole authority to demote or terminate him, noting that neither had served him with a warning or disciplined him in 23 years of employment. Regardless of who had the authority to fire him, the plaintiff claims he never received a written notification of the claims against him, nor was he given an opportunity to contest them in order to avoid demotion.

The town's motion to dismiss the claim argues that it disciplined the man after "finding that the plaintiff had violated town policies regarding employee conduct both by direct action against other employees and also failing to act in his supervisory capacity to prevent misconduct." The motion adds that the town administrator has "primary direction and control" over all paid EMS workers, giving it the authority to terminate the plaintiff's employment.

Source:, "Berlin Seeks Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Dismissal," Shawn J. Soper, Aug. 31, 2012

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