Rockland denies it discriminated against a former assessor who was fired more than two years ago after she suffered a head injury in a car crash.

Attorney Shiloh Theberg of Portland filed a response Feb. 19 in U.S. District Court in Portland on behalf of the city in the federal lawsuit filed by former assessor Doreen French.

The city is asking that lawsuit be dismissed and that French pay the city's costs for defending the lawsuit.

Rockland maintains that the accommodation requested by French was unreasonable and would have caused the city undue hardship, that the city did not discriminate against French for her medical condition, that French was an employee-at-will and could be fired for any lawful reason, that she was not eligible for protection under state and federal disability laws, and that she was unable to perform her job.

French filed her lawsuit Dec. 18. She seeks back pay, unspecified damages and attorney's fees.

French was hired by the city in February 2016. On Nov. 9 of that year, she suffered a serious concussion from a motor vehicle crash.

Her doctor issued a notice to the city that she was suffering from mild amnesia, delayed verbal responses, headaches and vision problems. The doctor said she was unable to work on a computer with these medical issues.

The doctor initially informed the city that French would need to be out of work through May 2017, but later reported that she could begin working one day a week beginning in January 2017, and could build up from that point.

But on Dec. 20, 2016, then-Rockland City Manager Audra Caler-Bell terminated French's employment, saying her injury occurred in a non-work-related accident.

"As a result, this letter will serve as notice of your separation from employment with the city effective Dec. 20, 2016. This separation is non-disciplinary; we simply can no longer hold your position open, particularly with the lengthy and uncertain period of incapacity," Caler-Bell stated in her letter.

"I understand the past few months have been incredibly difficult for you and the factors that have led to your sustained absence were out of your control. We appreciate your dedication to the city, and wish you the best in the future," the letter went on.

French filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission in January 2017 and the agency issued her a right-to-sue letter April 11, 2018.

The lawsuit pointed out that the city had a former assessor who could have filled in during French's absence.

Dennis Reed, who served as assessor for Rockland before French, returned to work as assessor from December 2016 through October 2017, when the city appointed Roxy LaFrance to the post.

French is represented by attorney John Gause of Bangor.