WISCASSET, Maine — A woman was illegally fired for being American, the Maine Human Rights Commission found Monday.
Phyllis Soule of Wiscasset worked for Wiscasset Quick Stop in her hometown for four years as a cook when a new owner bought the store in 2009.
After working with Soule for a few months, the owner — who remains unnamed in the commission investigator’s report — fired her and her daughter. The owner told the two women they were let go because of bad economic conditions. But soon after, he hired two workers from Bangladesh to fill their positions. The owner is from India.
According to the owner, Soule and her daughter were fired because they couldn’t get along with other employees. Investigator Robert Beauchesne didn’t think this was true because there were no records that either woman ever needed discipline. Also, once the human rights case was filed, the owner of the store invited the two women back to work.
Beauchesne said it made little sense for the owner to fire Soule because of the economy and then replace her with a worker who had little retail or cooking experience. This led him to believe the hiring of the Bangladesh worker might have had to do with national origin and that the firing of Soule might have also been related to her race.
“In the absence of any credible evidence to the contrary, it appears that, at least as likely as not that [Soule and her daughter] were replaced by [the two Bangladesh workers], who at the very least shared a common language and possibly the same country of origin as [the store owner],” Beauchesne concluded.
The Human Rights Commission agreed, in a 4-0 vote Monday.
Neither Soule nor the store owner attended the meeting.
In cases where grounds for discrimination are found, 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.