Eagan, Minnesota, a commuter town of 64,206 in the southeast part of the state, is facing a lawsuit from Dan Benson, a firefighter who claims that he was demoted after coming out as gay.
Benson served for 18 years in Eagan’s paid on-call force, a force in which most firefighters work other jobs and only get paid when attending a trainings or responding to calls. Benson remained closeted throughout most of his service, he eventually became a battalion chief overseeing emergency scenes.
Last October, the city’s fire chief informed all the firefighters that they would have to reapply for their positions and meet with him. During Benson’s meeting, Benson outed himself by mentioning his husband Greg and their 14-year-old son.
Then, a few days after Thanksgiving, the chief told Benson that his application had been denied and that Benson could reapply to serve as an entry-level firefighter, a rank four-levels lowers than his then-current position as battalion chief and without its $8,000 in annual pay.
The chief allegedly told Benson that Benson had missed a few training sessions, had used a personal cell phone for department business and had posted an unauthorized video from a fire on YouTube, though Benson says that he posted the video on a private access setting upon another fire chief’s request of .
Benson submitted his own letter refuting the claims and then filed a lawsuit against he city and its fire chief early last April.
Though the city refuses to comment on the suit, they claim no discrimination. Reports allege that the city had recently reduced its number of fire stations from six to three and has reduced the number of upper level positions accordingly. Another report says that the city currently has only 87 volunteer firefighters, about 60 percent of what it had in 2010.
Benson took the entry-level firefighter position, eager to hold onto about $50,000 worth of pension funds that he’ll become vested for after 20 years of service on the force.
(Featured image by chuckmoser via iStock Photography)