April 05, 2020

Former Brewer gold firm worker wins sex-harassment claim

AUGUSTA — When no representative from Enchanted Gold of Brewer was present to argue against sexual discrimination complaints, the Maine Human Rights Commission found grounds to support the accuser, Margie Day.

Day of Exeter complained that she was laid off in 1996 from Enchanted Gold after complaining of physical and verbal sexual harassment. She also claimed that her job was terminated because she refused to hide payroll records when the firm was being investigated by the Department of Labor.

When Day’s case came before the commission Monday, neither she nor Enchanted Gold sent representatives to argue their respective positions. The gold-plating firm is no longer in business in Maine.

Without debating the subject, commission members unanimously consented to Day’s charges.

Information obtained by Paul D. Pierce, chief investigator, supported their vote. Pierce had found reasonable grounds for a finding that the company had unlawfully discharged Day.

Pierce noted that once apprised of Day’s charges, Enchanted Gold fired its production manager because of his conduct in the workplace, including “horseplay with both males and females.” Day, who left the company’s employment in August 1996, had charged that the production manager fondled her and once pushed a female co-worker onto a copying machine, photocopied her breasts and said, “This is what a real woman looks like.” When Day complained about the man’s behavior, she claimed he replied that she needed “a good lay” to solve her problems.

In the case of Robert Nabozny of Bangor who was fired as human resources director at St. Joseph Hospital, the commission ruled in favor of the hospital. Nabozny had claimed that job pressures forced him to take medical leave and that when he asked for additional time to heal, the hospital fired him. He charged that the hospital’s real motive for his dismissal was his refusal to stop arguing for overtime pay for employees working extra hours.

According to Nabozny’s attorney, Thomas Johnson, the hospital keeps track of work hours with a system similar to that used to record credit card charges. Johnson said that when Nabozny complained about the practice, he was threatened and told “his employees should be working off the clock.”

Frank McGuire, attorney for St. Joseph Hospital, said Nabozny’s problems were caused during a period of downsizing “when he took more work on himself as staff left and it created problems as to the way human resources was being handled … nobody was being punished.”

The commission also upheld the Penobscot Job Corps Center’s decision to fire Betsey Smith-Roy, an instructor from Ellsworth. Smith-Roy had charged that she was dismissed because she was white and suffering from cancer.

Smith-Roy also claimed she was denied protection under the whistleblower’s act when “she questioned the legalities of the certified nursing assistant program and challenged her supervisor in front of students about violations,” according to her representative, Catherine Haines. “This was not a power struggle, but rather a concern that the Job Corps Center was not in compliance.”

Attorney Tom Johnson presented the Job Corps case and argued that Smith-Roy was a disruptive person who constantly displayed “a lack of discipline” on the job. He cited Smith-Roy’s behavior as the reason a number of good instructors resigned from their positions at the Job Corps.

“This is a situation where this instructor had been a problem for driving out her fellow instructors for some time … she was told it could cost her her job,” Johnson said. “Betsey Smith-Roy could not make it in terms of teamwork … The Job Corps decided it was not going to put up with it any longer.”

The commission supported the claim of Brent Kenney of Belfast who charged that Central Maine Power Co. discriminated against him because of a disabling knee injury. In a related decision, commission members found no grounds that Kenney was a victim of sexual discrimination. Kenney claimed that was the case when his job was given to a woman.

Kenney was a 17-year employee when his duties were upgraded and eventually given to a woman after the company determined Kenney was unqualified for the revised positon. The company charged that Kenney was unable to meet the qualifications, including computer skills, that were needed for the upgraded position.

Kenney’s attorney, Charles Gilbert, scoffed at the company’s spin on the situation. “This job was not upgraded,” Gilbert told the commission. “Mr. Kenney was forced to apply for his own job.”

Gilbert said Kenney was among several disabled CMP employees who were paid from a special account rather than be permitted to file for Workers’ Compensation. When the company decided to eliminate the account, it systematically began weeding out its disabled employees, Gilbert charged.

“It was not really much more than a charade when Mr. Kenney had to bid for his own job,” Gilbert said. “Maybe the gun wasn’t smoking, but it was still pretty warm … It was a matter of policy to get rid of these people.”

CMP attorney Stephen Moriarty denied that the company tried to get rid of Kenney. He said CMP had accommodated his disabled knee for years by giving Kenney less-strenuous assignments and reducing his access to difficult sites. He said that Kenney’s supervisor offered to help him with training and his resume when the job was upgraded but that Kenney rejected the offer.

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