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Maine Human Rights Commission finds that Gorham business discriminated against an employee with a disability

On November 1, 2010, the Maine Human Rights Commission (MHRC) found that Central City Sheet Metal, Inc. discriminated against Patrick Michaud because of his disability when it terminated his employment. Central City Sheet Metal terminated Mr. Michaud on November 25, 2008. Prior to his termination, Mr. Michaud had worked for the company seven years as a foreman.
Mr. Michaud has heart problems, diabetes, and pinched nerves in his left hand. He worked through these health issues but he needed accommodations from his employer to do so. One of these accommodations was a 30 pound lifting restriction that Mr. Michaud’s doctor imposed on him in January of 2008.

On November 20, 2008, less than a week before his termination, Mr. Michaud claims that he informed his supervisor that he would need to undergo surgery on his hand in the near future. At that time, he was also still working under the 30 pound lifting restriction that his doctor had imposed in January 2008.

On November 25, 2008, Mr. Michaud claims his supervisor asked him to put supplies on top of a trailer in an unsafe manner. According to the MHRC, Mr. Michaud actually would have violated OSHA safety standards if he had done what his supervisor requested. Citing safety concerns, Mr. Michaud claims he told his supervisor that he wanted to perform the task in a different, safer way. Mr. Michaud says that, in addition to his safety concerns, he told his supervisor that he would violate his lifting restriction if he performed the task in the way the supervisor wanted. After Mr. Michaud raised these concerns, his supervisor told him to “go the f–k home.”

Mr. Michaud assumed that his supervisor terminated him when he told him to go home. Central City Sheet Metal claims that it did not terminate Mr. Michaud until the next day when he did not show up for work. In any event, there is no dispute that Central City Sheet Metal terminated Mr. Michaud’s employment.

The MHRC found that, but for his disabilities and need for accommodations, Central City Sheet Metal would not have terminated Mr. Michaud. In reaching this decision, the MHRC Investigator found that the supervisor was frustrated over the fact that the company had to accommodate Mr. Michaud’s disabilities. She also found it noteworthy that the supervisor terminated a long term employee without following the disciplinary steps set forth in the company’s own policies.

Now that the MHRC has found reasonable grounds to believe that Central City Sheet Metal discriminated against Mr. Michaud because of his disabilities, the MHRC will likely engage in conciliation efforts with the company in an attempt to resolve Mr. Michaud’s complaint. If those conciliation efforts fail, the MHRC and/or Mr. Michaud could file a lawsuit against Central City Sheet Metal.