Skowhegan man accused of ‘barking like a dog’ at his supervisor files federal lawsuit

Posted July 25, 2014, at 2:49 p.m.
Last modified July 25, 2014, at 7:23 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A Skowhegan man on Wednesday sued his former employer, Pan Am Railways, Inc., in U.S. District Court alleging that the corporation medically discriminated against him by requiring him to pay for an expensive brain specialist before he could return to work.

David Crockett worked for the railroad in Waterville for 14 years as a carman when he was placed on unpaid leave in March 2012, the complaint said. His duties included the inspections and painting of rail cars.

Crockett maintains in the complaint filed by his attorney, Jeffrey Neil Young of Augusta, that in February 2012, his supervisor asked him to sign off on rail cars that he had not inspected.

Crockett refused. In placing the carman on unpaid leave, his supervisor alleged that Crockett had “barked like a dog” at him when he directed Crockett to clean up a work area.

“No one else was present at the time and Crockett denies doing so,” the complaint said.

The carman’s own medical providers cleared him to return to work following an exam, according to a previously published report. Pan Am’s insurance provider would not clear Crockett to return to work unless he saw a brain specialist between 10 and 15 times and paid the provider’s fee of more than $100 an hour himself.

Crockett said he could not afford the expense and the company has refused to reinstate him, according to the complaint.

In March, the Maine Human Rights Commission by a 2-2 vote dismissed Crockett’s complaint and went against the recommendation of the panel’s investigator, Victoria Ternig. A tie vote results in a dismissal, according to the report.

The commission previously rejected Crockett’s claim that he was discriminated against because he was a whistleblower.

Pan Am has not yet received a copy of the complaint, according to the court’s electronic case filing system. The firm’s attorney, Thad Zmistowski of Ellsworth, could not be reached Friday for comment.

In the human rights case, the railroad claimed that during the year leading up to Crockett’s removal in March 2012 he was disciplined twice in 2011, once for excessive absenteeism and once for failing to remove a blue flag protection on a derailment.

The carman is seeking reinstatement, back pay and benefits, compensatory damages for loss of enjoyment of life, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and legal costs.

He asked in the lawsuit that the judge grant a permanent injunction against Pan Am to prevent it from “engaging in any employment policy or practice which discriminates against Crockett on the basis of disability or is retaliatory against [him].”

BDN writer Abigail Curtis contributed to this report.

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