Woman illegally fired after being struck by co-worker, commission decides

Posted May 22, 2012, at 3:07 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Human Rights Commission ruled Monday that the firing of a woman who was hit by a fellow employee was illegal and racist.

Massachusetts agency Employment on Demand hired Therese Nymahoro of Westbrook, who is black, to work as an assembly worker in Saco in May 2010. In the fall of 2010, “a co-worker punched her on the head. She pushed co-worker and asked for an explanation. Co-worker tapped her on the head again for a second and third time,” according to a response Nymahoro filed with the Human Rights Commission.

The co-worker told supervisors about the fight. Nymahoro told the Human Rights Commission she wanted to go to supervisors to tell them her side of the story, but her English was limited.

“By the time [the] company found an interpreter to help her explain her side of the story, [the] company had already decided to fire her,” the commission’s report states.

The company said it immediately fired both workers. But when it submitted payroll records to the Human Rights Commission, it showed that Nymahoro stopped getting paid in October, after the incident, but her Hispanic co-worker was paid for another month.

Most of the workers at the plant are Hispanic, according to Human Rights Commission documents.

“She was treated less favorabìy than co-worker because of her race/color. [Employment on Demand] states that both employees were involved in a physical aìtercation and yet only one of them, the one who is African-American, was terminated,” the investigator wrote.

The commission voted unanimously that Employment on Demand discriminated against Nymahoro because she is black, speaks Swahili and has limited ability to speak English. In such cases, both parties are encouraged to reconcile and reach a settlement. If conciliation fails, the complainant may file a civil lawsuit in Maine Superior Court, where a binding settlement can include monetary damages.

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