Commission: Center acted unjustly

Posted May 24, 2010, at 10:17 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Human Rights Commission decided Monday that although the Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor did not discriminate against a male nurse in his job evaluations, it did try to remove him unjustly from his position.

Marius Ramirez of Ellsworth testified that he developed an eye problem after swimming in the Philippines in October 2008 while on vacation. Upon his return to Maine, Ramirez made an appointment with his doctor for Nov. 11, 2008, to have material removed from his cornea.

Ramirez said he was scheduled to work at the Dorothea Dix center that night, and his assignment was to watch a patient. He informed his supervisors that his eyes were causing him pain, he said.

Ramirez began watching over a mentally ill patient, but he said his eyes hurt and he needed to rest them so he closed them for a while. His superiors saw him with his eyes closed and accused him of sleeping when he was supposed to be watching a patient. The center investigated the incident and in March 2009, Ramirez was suspended from work for seven days.

“They tried to fire me,” Ramirez said after the hearing.

Ramirez said his union’s president advised him to seek other work because the center was going to fire him.

“It scared me,” he said. “I have two children. Who will support them?”

That week, Ramirez filed a complaint against the psychiatric center with the Maine Human Rights Commission. The state owns the psychiatric center.

Assistant Attorney General Melissa Reynolds O’Dea told the commission that Ramirez did not do his job to the standard that was expected of him that night.

“His eyes were closed,” O’Dea said. “He was either sleeping or he wasn’t alert. If his eyes were closed, it is a problem. He has to be observing the patient. People can hurt themselves or others.”

Commissioner A. Mavourneen Thompson said after the hearing, “It seemed that the individual showed he was dealing with a medical problem and it seemed he was able to do his job.”

In another part of his complaint, Ramirez indicated the center’s employment evaluations of him were discriminatory because they addressed his ethnicity and culture.

The commission ultimately found the center did not discriminate against Ramirez in the evaluations.

According to O’Dea, the reports said Ramirez was not treating his subordinates respectfully.

“He consistently blamed his culture for those failings,” O’Dea said. “Rather than ignore his explanation, his manager included his explanation [in the reports].”

Ramirez denied treating other workers poorly.

After the hearing, Ramirez said he has always been treated differently in his workplace.

“I’m the only Filipino in the hospital,” he said. “I feel like there is racism in the hospital. I have to defend myself all the time.”

Barbara Lelli, chief investigator for the commission, defended Ramirez.

“There’s two performance evaluations that say that his problem is his culture. They’re not just signed by his supervisors, but by two levels of administration,” Lelli said in the meeting. “It’s a really troubling amount of insensitivity.”

Lelli said she found no evidence “at all” of Ramirez treating subordinates poorly.

“Everyone likes him. It doesn’t make sense. People don’t usually like people who are disrespectful of his subordinates,” Lelli said.

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