BANGOR, Maine — An Oakland man has sued an international manufacturing firm in U.S. District Court claiming he was discriminated against when it was learned that he has epilepsy.
Barry E. Kot, 49, was offered a job in August 2013 as a machine operator at Waterville location of Huhtamaki Inc., headquartered in Espoo, Finland, according to the complaint filed by attorneys with the Maine Employee Rights Group in Portland. Kot’s employment was contingent upon passing a physical.
The company manufactures consumer and specialty packaging and products for the food service, according to its U.S. website.
Epilepsy is considered a disability under the Maine Human Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday, has not been served on the company, according to the court’s electronic case filing system. Efforts to learn who is representing Huhtamaki were unsuccessful Saturday.
During the examination with a provider designated by the company’s human resources manager, Kot said that he had had been diagnosed with epilepsy in 2005 and placed on anti-seizure medication, the complaint said. Kot told the nurse practitioner, who conducted the exam, that “he had been seizure free since beginning the medication regimen eight-and-a-half years earlier.”
“[She] responded by telling Kot that she could not release him to perform the job stating, ‘What if you have a seizure and fall on a machine?’” the complaint said.
Kot told her that under Maine law he was permitted to have a driver’s license and had driven daily since he began taking medication. He also told her that his neurologist annually submitted paperwork to the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicle stating his epilepsy was controlled.
A week after the exam, the nurse practitioner allegedly told Kot that he could work at Huhtamaki with restrictions. They included: no working at heights, no working on a catwalk, no working with large machinery and no driving a forklift or tractor, the complaint said. A company representative allegedly told Kot there were no jobs that could accommodate those restrictions.
In September 2013, Kot allegedly told representatives of Huhtamaki that by not hiring him, they were acting illegally. He also told them he would be seeing a lawyer about possible legal action, the complaint said.
In response, the firm’s human resources director sent Kot an email that said he had “used profanities and threats” when the nurse practitioner told him of the work restrictions. That was why he was not offered employment, the email, quoted in the complaint said.
Kot has denied using profanity or making threats.
The Oakland man received a right-to-sue letter from the MHRC after the commission was unable to investigate his claim with the statutory time limit.
In the lawsuit, Kot is seeking: to be employed as a machine operator, the position he was originally offered; back pay and benefits; unspecified compensatory and punitive damages; and an injunction that would keep the company from discriminating on the basis of a disability.