November 11, 2019
Business Latest News | Snow Storm | Bangor Metro | Bucksport Mill | Today's Paper

Former Maine shipyard workers claim unjust firings

Troy R. Bennett | BDN
Troy R. Bennett | BDN
A man walks a dog on Dec. 16, 2014, in Bath's South End Park on Washington Street with the cranes of Bath Iron Works seen in the distance.

BATH, Maine — Two longtime Bath Iron Works employees have filed federal lawsuits charging the company with illegally firing them during approved medical leave in violation of the Family Medical Leave Act and the Maine Family Medical Leave Act.

The most recent suit was filed last week as the company continues negotiations with an attorney for more than a dozen other employees who claimed discrimination based on age and disability.

David Brady worked at BIW, a subsidiary of General Dynamics Corporation, for 26 years before he was fired on July 8, 2015, according to documents filed Jan. 5 in U.S. District Court by Brady’s attorney, Samuel S. Riotte of McTeague Higbee in Topsham.

In November 2014, Brady began suffering from a chronic, serious health condition and BIW certified a request for intermittent leave under the FMLA and MFMLA, according to court documents.

On June 23, 2015, Brady’s primary care physician completed paperwork documenting that Brady would need an estimated three days or 24 hours per month of intermittent family medical leave to treat the condition.

Three days later, Brady started his shift at 7 a.m. and then began to suffer symptoms of his illness, Riotte wrote. Because he was concerned that his FMLA certification paperwork had not yet been processed, Brady confirmed with a shipyard employee who handled leave requests that he could use his intermittent leave. At 11 a.m. that day he reported to his “lead man” and supervisor that he would do so.

Brady and another employee also leaving work then had lunch together at a local restaurant, Riotte wrote, where they were spotted by employees of BIW’s labor relations department, who alleged Brady drank a beer at the restaurant.

Later that afternoon, the suit alleges, a letter was faxed from the shipyard physician — who Riotte says was not at the yard that day — accusing Brady of “utilizing his FMLA for the purpose of spending time at a local bar.”

Brady was subsequently suspended pending investigation “for possible fraud’ and then fired on July 8, a termination that Riotte said violated state and federal medical leave laws.

“BIW put no restrictions on how or what Mr. Brady could do when he decided to exercise his FMLA [leave],” Riotte said Friday. “Ultimately, he would like to return to the job he had been doing — he liked doing that.”

The termination caused “a very difficult financial situation for Mr. Brady, and there were other repercussions from losing work — losing savings, retirement, lost wages,” Riotte said.

The suit seeks reinstatement to his position, back pay and benefits, as well as damages of $100 for each day of lost work since the termination.

Riotte also represents Richard Pye of Dresden, a 28-year shipyard employee who was terminated from his job on July 24, 2015. Pye filed suit against BIW on Sept. 21, 2015, claiming unlawful discrimination after he exercised his rights to medical leave.

Pye had been treated for a serious health condition since October 2001, and since 2005 had been certified to use intermittent family medical leave, up to nine times per month according to court documents.

In the lawsuit, Pye asks the court to restore him to his previous job, pay lost wages and benefits and pay additional damages up to the sum of the lost wages and benefits.

Riotte accused BIW of using medical leave technicalities to “clean house.”

The two cases follow a November vote by the Maine Human Rights Commission to end the formal complaint process for two other BIW employees who claimed discrimination due to age and disability and issue “right to sue” letters

Victoria Ternig, chief investigator for the commission, recommended the commission find reasonable grounds to support two of three complaints by Rodney Kates of Lewiston — that he was discriminated against based on his physical disability.

She also recommended the commission find reasonable grounds to support claims by Richard Roberts of Lisbon Falls that he was discriminated against based on his disability.

Jeffrey Young of Johnson, Webbert and Young represents the two men and more than a dozen others who also claimed discrimination, but for whom the commission found no reasonable grounds. Young said in November that he would likely file suit in U.S. District Court seeking up to $300,000 in lost overtime wages.

Young said Friday that discussions with BIW continue and that no decision has yet been made on a potential lawsuit.

Shipyard spokesman Matt Wickenheiser did not return phone calls or emails requesting comment for this story.

 



Have feedback? Want to know more? Send us ideas for follow-up stories.

You may also like