Eagan Firefighter Sues Chief for Discrimination

Eagan Firefighter Sues Chief for Discrimination Photo: Wikimedia Commons, file

April 27, 2017 01:05 PM

An Eagan firefighter is suing the chief of the Eagan Fire Department, claiming he was demoted from his position as battalion chief due to his sexual orientation, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court.

According to the lawsuit, Daniel Lowell Benson is seeking damages against Michael Scott, the Eagan fire chief.

The lawsuit said Benson has served on the Eagan Fire Department for 18 years and was eventually promoted to battalion chief. During his time with the department, Benson did not share his sexual orientation, or the fact that he was married to a man, with anyone in the department, according to the lawsuit.

In 2016, Benson and other officers had to reapply for their jobs with the department. During the application process Benson was asked if he was married, according to the lawsuit. Benson then disclosed that he was married to a man, and they were acting as fathers to a son as well as to two exchange students.

The lawsuit claims the reapplication process "in reality was just a ruse," and it outed Benson "against his will."

Scott issued a statement saying the application process was used to adjust the department's organizational structure, which included eliminating leadership positions. The statement also said Benson and other leaders decided it would be best to have an open hiring process, allowing firefighters to apply for new, restructured positions.

After the process, Benson was told he was not being reappointed as a battalion chief, according to the lawsuit. Benson was asked to stay in the department and serve as an on-call firefighter. According to the lawsuit, Benson will not receive the same amount of pay or benefits as he would have as battalion chief.

The lawsuit argues Benson's demotion violates rights granted to him in the Constitution and state law. Benson is seeking at least $50,000 in damages. Scott denied any form of discrimination in the hiring process and said the city plans to fight the suit, according to his statement.

Benson still serves on the Eagan Fire Department as an on-call firefighter, according to the statement.

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Ben Rodgers

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