Man accused of ‘barking like a dog’ at his supervisor found not to have been victim of discrimination

Posted March 17, 2014, at 1:29 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — By a 2-2 vote, the Maine Human Rights Commission dismissed the claim of a Skowhegan man who said his longtime employer, Pan Am Railways, Inc., had medically discriminated against him.

David Crockett of Skowhegan, who worked as a carman for the railway for 15 years, filed a complaint with the state commission after he said he was unjustly removed from service in March 2012. According to the former carman, railway officials demanded he see a pricey brain specialist but refused to pay, according to the complaint. Crockett said that his supervisor told other people at his workplace that he had “barked at him like a dog,” though the alleged interaction was witnessed by no one.

After the alleged barking incident, the railway required that Crockett be examined by a doctor at Concentra to see if he was fit for duty. That doctor did not give him the OK to return to work without further, expensive evaluation, although Crockett’s own medical providers had cleared him.

In response to the complaint, Pan Am told Maine Human Rights Commission Investigator Victoria Ternig that during the year leading up to Crockett’s dismissal, other employees and his supervisor had concerns about his behavior. He was disciplined twice in 2011, once for excessive absenteeism and once for failing to remove a blue flag protection on a derail.

Ternig found that while the company could require that its employee be examined by an appropriate healthcare professional, it did not meet its obligation to provide and pay for that treatment, which Concentra told Crockett would cost $150 an hour for at least a dozen sessions.

Ternig wrote in her report that she found the Skowhegan man had suffered disability discrimination “based on unlawful medical inquiries.” However, she found no credence in his other claim that the company removed him from service because he called attention to bad practices, which would have violated the federal Whistleblowers’ Protection Act.

The commission agreed with her on that point, finding unanimously on Feb. 24 that there are no reasonable grounds to conclude that Crockett had been discriminated against because he was a whistleblower.

Although two members of the commission found that there were reasonable grounds to believe he had been discriminated against due to unlawful medical inquiries, in violation of the Maine Human Rights Act, two other members opposed the motion. That tie vote translates to a ruling against Crockett’s claim.

 

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