Fire Employees Unsuccessfully Allege Anti-Marriage Discrimination

Written on 01/05/2024

Frank Dellucky was a firefighter who worked for the St. George Fire Protection District No. 2 in Louisiana. Stacey Roberson joined the District in 2013 and worked in several administra­tive roles. Dellucky and Roberson were both married, and Roberson’s husband was Assistant Fire Chief for the District, Chad Roberson. In 2016, Dellucky and Stacey Roberson began a very conspic­uous affair. Stacey Roberson provided real-time updates about the affair to other District employees, and the couple spent considerable time together while at work, at the expense of their regular duties. The following is an unrebutted description of the affair and its effect on the workplace:

“Rumors of an affair between Stacey Roberson and Dellucky spread like wild­fire, and polarized employees. Dellucky and Stacey Roberson were being ostra­cized by other employees because of this rumor. Dellucky was having difficulty making shift relief with other district chiefs, who were friendly with Assistant Chief Roberson. Stacey Roberson and Dellucky’s relationship was creating havoc in St. George’s workplace.”

Fire Chief Gerard Tarleton sum­moned Dellucky and Stacey Roberson to his office in October 2016, explaining that their affair was causing problems in the workplace. He specifically noted that Assistant Chief Roberson was likely to take over his position one day, which would put all three of them in a deeply challenging and uncomfortable position. Tarleton warned Dellucky and Stacey Roberson that if their affair continued, neither could work for the District.

The warning apparently worked; for the following two years there is no evidence that Dellucky and Stacey Roberson continued their affair. Both marriages ended in divorce. In Feb­ruary 2018, Dellucky resigned from the District to avoid participating in a disciplinary investigation after he was accused of sending sexual messages to another District employee on Facebook. In so doing, Dellucky signed a settle­ment agreement waiving “all claims” against the District, whether known or unknown, into perpetuity. Stacey Rob­erson continued to work for the District.

On June 30, 2020, Dellucky and Sta­cey Roberson married, apparently having rekindled their relationship. One week later, Chief Tarleton summoned Stacey Roberson to his office. She surreptitiously recorded their conversation, in which the Chief reiterated his warning from 2016, explained that Chad Roberson might still become Chief, and terminated her em­ployment. Dellucky and Stacey Roberson sued the District and Chief Tarleton for violating their constitutional rights to free association and intimacy, and due process. Specifically, they argued that they were punished for the decision to marry. The District moved for summary judgment and won.

In ruling for the defendants, the Court first determined that Dellucky’s claim was explicitly barred by the set­tlement agreement he signed in 2018, which waived any future claims against the District. The Court then determined that Stacey Roberson’s claim was without merit. It found that the District’s decision to terminate Stacey Roberson based on her marriage to Dellucky was subject to rational basis review – an easy standard to meet – because it only incidentally affected Roberson’s ability to marry. In other words, the record clearly showed that Chief Tarleton had legitimate concerns over Stacey Roberson’s relationship with Dellucky as the supervisor of the District’s workforce. Their affair had a deleterious effect on the workplace, and that was what Chief Tarleton sought to avoid.

The Court also rejected Stacey Rob­erson’s due process argument because the record showed that she did not suffer a deprivation of her rights; she in fact married Dellucky. While she did lose her job, she was an at-will employee, and thus had no reasonable expectation of ongoing employment.

Dellucky v. St. George Fire Protection District, 2023 WL 6927337 (M.D. La. 2023).