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Massachusetts Federal Jury Awards Ex-Police Chief $770,000 for Military Employment Discrimination

On June 18, 2008, a federal jury awarded former Winohendon, Massachusetts Police Chief Robert N. Harrington, Jr. $770,000 in a federal lawsuit that alleged the town and Town Manager James M. Kreidler, Jr. discriminated against him because he was in the Army National Guard (ANG). Harrington was appointed chief in December 1999. Kreidler became town manager in January 2001. They had a personality clash. Kreidler allegedly “engaged in a pattern of behavior intended to harass, intimidate, embarrass and torment” Harrington. Harrington’s ANG unit went on active duty from January through March 2002. When Harrington returned from active duty, Kreidler questioned the validity of the military orders and harassed Harrington for taking the time off. In May 2003, Kreidler refused to renew Harrington’s contract, allegedly for other reasons.

Harrington filed an appeal with the Civil Service Commission (CSC). The CSC ruled Harrington had made untruthful statements, has anger management problems and violated a media-relations policy, but should be reinstated as a patrolman. Both sides appealed the CSC outcome. Harrington also filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service in March 2002 and was allegedly suspended for five days in retaliation.

The main issue in the federal suit was whether Kreidler fired Harrington because of his military service. The jury found in Harrington’s favor, awarding him $340,000, twice the requested $170,000, for military discrimination, $69,685 for lost wages and benefits, $70,000 in other damages and $290,000 in punitive damages for a total award of $769,685. The town’s insurance will cover the award. Harrington’s attorney said the verdict would also help Harrington in his civil service action seeking to get his job as chief back. Source: Telegram & Gazette, Boston attorney Howard Friedman.

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