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Virginia Firefighter Files Suit Saying He Was Ousted Because He's Gay

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Scott Phillips-Gartner alleges he was routinely harassed and then forced into early retirement once he came out to his superiors in Norfolk, Va. 

A former firefighter has filed suit in Virginia claiming he endured "a hostile work environment based on sexual orientation" and that he was harassed on the job and forced into early retirement for being gay, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

A firefighter with Norfolk Fire Rescue in Virginia since 1991, Scott Phillips-Gartner, 55, alleges in the lawsuit that he began to be treated differently at work when his battalion chief, Roger Burris, was told that Phillips-Gartner had married his boyfriend in 2014.

"Where is Ms. Gartner?" Burris allegedly asked at a staff meeting after Phillips-Gartner's marriage and subsequent outing at work. But complaints about Burris to Fire Chief Jeffrey F. Wise were ignored, Phillips-Gartner claims in the suit. Wise also "routinely belittled Gartner in front of colleagues," the suit says.

Over the course of his career Phillips-Gartner was made an assistant fire marshal and a senior member of the bomb squad, but by 2017 he was demoted for having obtained a service dog for the department without "proper authority."

From there, Phillips-Gartner was stripped of his city firearm, cell phone, and computer, and was barred from using Norfolk city vehicles. He was also denied routine bomb squad training, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Prior to filing the lawsuit, in which he is seeking lost pay, benefits, and compensation for emotional damage, Phillips-Gartner filed nine grievances alleging that he was facing "discrimination and retaliation based on his sexual orientation," according to Virginia TV station WAVY

In 2017, Wise informed Phillips-Gartner of his plans to fire him and the firefighter "reluctantly" put in for early retirement.

Officials with the city and Norfolk Fire Rescue declined comment on the suit.

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