Panel: Red Cross discriminated in hiring

Posted Dec. 13, 2010, at 11:04 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Employees with the American Red Cross in Bangor illegally discriminated against a pregnant woman who applied for a blood collection job in 2009, according to a Maine Human Rights Commission ruling Monday.

Katie Dorian of Milford applied for the job after she had graduated top in her phlebotomy class, received her CPR certification and worked in the health field for a year, according to an MHRC investigator’s report.

Dorian told the investigator that because of her qualifications, she felt confident when she interviewed for the job with the Red Cross last January. She said the job interview was going well until she told the interviewer that she was pregnant.

“[The interviewer] then told me that she could not hire me because of that and that this was not a suitable job for a new mother due to the hours and traveling,” Dorian told MHRC investigator Robert Beauchesne.

Dorian’s sister applied for the same job later that day, according to Beauchesne’s report. When she went into her job interview with a different Red Cross employee, he “told me that he really wished my sister had not disclosed her pregnancy because otherwise she had the job,” according to Beauchesne’s report.

The Red Cross denied that its employees ever said anything of the sort. Further, the Red Cross asserted to the Human Rights Commission’s investigator that Dorian was not as qualified as the other applicants.

The other applicants included a tattoo artist with a bachelor’s degree and phlebotomy certification, a 23-year paper mill worker who has HAZMAT and CPR certification, and someone who had been in the Army National Guard who interviewed particularly well, according to the Red Cross’ response to the complaint.

“The three other people we considered simply had better qualifications,” the Red Cross’ attorney, Geoffrey Mermuth, said at Monday morning’s MHRC hearing.

“If you do the analysis, Miss Dorian is clearly in the top one or two,” her attorney, Chad Hansen rebutted.

Mermuth argued that the job “posting in this case is what counts and the only firm requirement in the posting was a high school diploma. All of the appliciants met the minimum job qualifications. It isn’t the case that the applicant was one or two; she was number four no matter how you slice it.”

Ultimately, the investigator sided with Dorian and recommended in his report that the commission find that she was discriminated against because of her sex.

“[Dorian] and her witnesses were simply found to be more credible on relevant matters than the [Red Cross’] witnesses,” Beauchesne wrote. “Accordingly, [Dorian] has shown direct evidence that her pregnancy was a motivating factor in [the Red Cross’] decision not to hire her.”

The three commissioners present at Monday’s hearing unanimously agreed with the investigator.

Commission findings are not law but may become grounds for lawsuits. The parties will first try to resolve the complaint through a conciliation process.

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