May 20, 2018
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Rights panel: Denny’s employee treated badly, but not fired, because of OCD

By Heather Steeves, BDN Staff

AUGUSTA, Maine — A woman who argued she was fired from Denny’s restaurant because of her obsessive compulsive disorder was dismissed for giving a trucker a cup of free milk, the Maine Human Rights Commission found Monday.

The commission’s vote went against its own investigator’s recommendation.

In a a 2-0 vote Monday, the commission decided that Erica Kilde of Richmond was subjected to a hostile work environment at the Augusta Denny’s for her OCD but was not fired for her disorder.  One commissioner abstained from the vote.

According to Kilde, her co-workers would call her Miss Perfect and mess with her workspace, which she said she needed to keep in a particular way.

“[One of her co-workers] repeatedly rearranged her supplies and demanded half of the work station for his own things. When she stated that his actions caused her to get new medication for her condition, he responded, ‘You just gave me a trophy to hang on my wall,’” the human rights commission’s investigator wrote in a report.

Kilde had reminded her manager of her OCD and asked that he make her co-workers stop teasing her about four times, the last time being May 13, 2010.

“She explained that the harassment would cause her to cry at work,” the commission’s investigator wrote. “She finally stated that she would file an official complaint with the company if [the] general manager did not address the situation. He responded with ‘a dirty look’ and stated, ‘No. No. No. Don’t even talk like that.’”

The next day, Trucker John, a regular, came in for his meal. He usually would leave a $20 bill after eating, without seeing the sales slip. The remaining money would be a tip, according to the commission investigator’s report.

Kilde, who had worked for Denny’s for 3 1/2 years, didn’t charge Trucker John for his usual cup of milk. A manager noticed and confronted her. She told her manager it was an oversight and she would pay for the beverage.
Instead Denny’s fired her two days later.

Kilde suspected the firing wasn’t over the milk but because she had OCD.

Because of the time frame — getting fired days after complaining that she was being picked on because of her mental disorder — and after looking at records from other Denny’s restaurants about when they fire people for theft of services, the Maine Human Rights Commission investigator reached the conclusion that Kilde was fired for complaining about Denny’s not accommodating her disorder.

The Maine Human Rights Commission disagreed in a 3-0 vote Monday.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that the Maine Human Rights Commission voted 2-1 that Erica Kilde of Richmond was subjected to a hostile work environment at the Augusta Denny’s for her obsessive compulsive disorder. The vote was 2-0 with one commissioner abstaining.

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