Scott Phillips-Gartner was a firefighter in Norfolk, Virginia for over two decades before he retired in 2017. Now he’s suing the city, saying homophobia and discrimination forced his retirement.
The Virginian Pilot first reported Gartner’s story.
They reported Gartner became a firefighter in 1992. Things went downhill after he married his longtime boyfriend in 2014 and his bosses found out, however.
Gartner is suing Norfolk, saying the city’s fire department created a hostile work environment and forced him out of his job. He is also accusing the city of gender discrimination, arguing he would have been treated differently if he were a woman who married a man.
He is seeking unspecified damages from the city.
Years of service
According to the lawsuit, the department first hired Gartner as a telecommunications officer in 1991. One year later, he became a firefighter.
Over the years, he received promotions, such as becoming an assistant fire marshal in 2013 and a senior member of the bomb squad. He was also reportedly ‘well-regarded’ prior to news of his marriage.
Throughout 2015 and 2016, Gartner alleges Battalion Chief Roger Burris ‘routinely belittled’ him in front of his colleagues. At one point Burris reportedly called Gartner ‘Ms. Gartner’.
Gartner spoke to both Fire Chief Jeffrey F. Wise and then-city auditor, John Sanderlin, but he said nothing changed.
The beginning of the end
In March 2017, the lawsuit states, Wise stripped Gartner of his law-enforcement powers, city firearm, computer, and cell phone.
According to attorney Barry Montgomery, the department justified Gartner’s demotion by claiming he ‘illegally obtained’ a service dog named Caylee.
Wise allegedly told Gartner he wanted to fire him November 2017, so gartner ‘reluctantly’ put in for retirement first.
‘This disrupted his whole life,’ Montgomery said. ‘This was not the way he wanted to leave. It was humiliating.’