Veteran firefighter Dan Benson has filed a civil suit in U.S. District court on the basis that he was discriminated against based on his sexual orientation, reports NewNowNext. Benson has been with the Eagan Fire Department for 18 years, and claims that his constitutional rights were violated along with the State Minnesota Human Rights Act.
“It’s incredible that in 2017 this type of conduct could occur,” said Paul Applebaum, Benson’s attorney. “The worst part of it is the department’s explanation doesn’t square with the letter that the chief handed to Dan Benson when he was demoted.”
The lawsuit alleges that Benson did not openly disclose that he was gay, in fact it maintains that Benson was very private about his sexuality. The subject came up during the reapplication process where he was asked if he was single or not, to which he discussed his husband Greg and the exchange students they were hosting, who they considered to be their “children.”
“When the question was asked about who’s your significant other, I felt that maybe this was building up to something,” Benson told KSTP.
Benson found out from his chief that he was not being reinstated as battalion chief not too long after. He was told he could continue to act as an entry-level firefighter, but this meant that he was stripped of his rank and the annual $8,000 stipend he was used to receiving.
Chief Michael Scott published a letter, detailing his reasons for stripping Benson of his rank, all of which have nothing to do with Benson’s sexuality, including missed training sessions, using his cellphone while on the clock and even posting a video from an emergency scene to social media. This conflicts with a statement put out by the city, which describes the reasons for the demotion as “reorganization, and ultimately fewer leadership positions.”
“Our decision was based on the interview and past work product—it wasn’t based on anything but that,” said Scott. “I was shocked that somebody would accuse me of something like this.”
No news on how the suit is progressing, but Benson is still working at the firehouse.