ROCKLAND — Maine Human Rights Commission investigators found “reasonable grounds” for discrimination complaints against Enchanted Gold of Brewer and CAT Lumber of Strong.
Recommendations for formal complaints against the two firms will be presented at the organization’s meeting at 8:30 a.m. Monday, Jan. 26, at the Senator Motel conference room on Western Avenue.
The Human Rights Commission acts as a clearinghouse for discrimination complaints. The staff investigates citizen complaints and recommends action to the commission. If the commission finds there has been discrimination, the case continues to conciliation. If that fails, the next step is Superior Court. In a high percentage of cases, the commission adopts the recommendations of investigators.
Margie Day of Exeter complained to the Human Rights Commission that she was laid off from Enchanted Gold in Brewer after she complained of physical and verbal sexual harassment and refused to hide payroll records during an investigation by the state Department of Labor. Investigator Paul D. Pierce in his report to the commission found “reasonable grounds” for a finding that the company had unlawfully discharged Day.
The company replied that its production manager, the subject of Day’s complaint, was fired because of his conduct in the workplace, including “horseplay with both males and females.”
The company told Human Rights Commission investigators that Day resigned in August 1996, then changed her mind a week later and asked to be reinstated. She eventually was rehired, then dismissed. The owner of the company did not appear at a fact-finding session.
Day said her supervisor, the production manager, fondled her and once pushed a female co-worker down on a copying machine, “copied” her breasts, then showed her the results and said, “This is what a real woman looks like.” Shortly after Day’s husband died, she complained about the supervisor’s behavior and was told by him that she needed “a good lay” to solve her problems, she told the HRC.
“Day was able to provide credible persuasive evidence that she was subjected to verbal and physical conduct of a sexual nature. She provided credible evidence that because she chose to take vacation days rather than agree with her employer’s instructions not to cooperate with the Department of Labor, dismissal resulted,” Pierce said.
Joanne Webber, 63, of Phillips won the support of the staff in her complaint against CAT Lumber of Strong. In her complaint, Webber said the company fired her when she was unwilling or unable to learn computer skills. She claimed it was due to her age.
CAT Lumber operates a mill in Strong and employs about 35 people. After 1993, when the firm was bought by a Canadian concern, accounting and other office functions were transferred to New Brunswick, with much of the remaining office work done on computer. Having worked in the office since 1978, Webber was dismissed in August 1996 and replaced with a worker 34 years younger.
The firm, represented by attorney Melissa A. Hewey, said Webber treated computer classes as a “joke,” failed to learn the system and could not develop computer information when requested. The company asked Webber to retire to avoid the embarrassment of being fired.
“There was ample evidence developed by this investigation to show that Ms. Webber was discharged because of her age. It is a negative, ageist stereotype that older people are unable or unwilling to learn new job skills,” commission investigator Barbara Lelli said in her report.
Commission investigators have recommended dismissal of complaints filed by:
David MacNeill of Bangor against Bangor Publishing Co. in Bangor.
Dorothy Sockbeson against Orchard Hill Farm of Orono.
Janet Berry of Machias against SAD 77 in East Machias.
Brent Kenney of Belfast against Central Maine Power Co. of Augusta.
Betsey Smith-Roy of Ellsworth against Penobscot Job Corps of Bangor.
Barbara Bailey-Schmidt of Bucksport against SAD 56 of Searsport.
Susan and Charles Newall of Calais against the Calais Police Department.
Donald Grillo of Exeter against SAD 46 in Dexter.
Joseph Grennier of Stockton Springs against Champion International Paper Co. of Bucksport.
Anne Highfield of Brewer against Ansewn Shoe Co. of Bangor.
David Gelonese of Bangor against Husson College of Bangor.
Ellis Reid of Rockland against Fisher Engineering of Rockland.
Dr. Josephine Bright of Orono against the University of Maine in Orono.
Paul Constantine of Bangor against Sears, Roebuck & Co. of Bangor.