In Auburn, Maine, a Lisbon man of Ethiopians decent who worked at a Walter receiving center for four years is suing the company. He is seeking both compensatory and punitive damages along with attorneys’ fees and the cost of expert witnesses. The man, Abdullah Omar, states that the company discriminated against him due to his race and subsequently fired him to retaliate against his complaint about workplace discrimination and an injury he sustained while on the Job.
Omar started working for Walter in 2006, but it appears the bulk of the trouble started in 2009. Omar states that he was treated less favorably by his supervisor than others who were not black. Omar claims that he was questioned about where he was from and that his response lead his supervisor to state he did not feel comfortable having Omar around his desk. Omar also claims that he was questioned about whether he spoke English which made him feel uncomfortable and targeted due to his race.
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According to the lawsuit, Omar repeated these complaints to the operations manager. It further states that these complaints were not addressed. According to Omar, a subsequent complaint to Walter’s human resources department did result n the removal of a low performance rating due to the discriminatory treatment. Omar contends that the supervisor continued to discriminate against him and assigned him to tasks that resulted in a lower production rate the others. In March of 2010 Omar claims he was injured on the Job.
He indicated he reported the injury, but was instructed not to see medical help due the cost the company would have to incur. The injury was not reported by the supervisor. Still in pain, Omar discussed the injury with the operations manager after a month had passed. The operations manager indicated he would investigate, but did not. In April on 2006 Omar claims he was disciplined for something on the Job. Omar reports that others had exhibited the same behavior, but had not been disciplined.
Omar refused to sign the disciplinary document and was told by his supervisor that he would be deported. He complained to the human resources department about his supervisor and operations manager, but claims no action was taken. Two months later Omar was blamed for an error he claims he did not commit, but was nonetheless fired. In 2011 Omar filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission, but last year the Commission mound no grounds for his complaints. Walter has denied all allegations and indicated that Omar had many performance issues before he was fired.
They maintain that action taken against Omar was consistent with actions taken against other non-African workers. Walter specifically indicated he was fired for falsifying safety information that could have endangered another worker. They claim that he did not receive immediate medical care because Omar did not seek workers’ compensation benefits while working. Since the lawsuit was recently filed the outcome is still yet unknown. While the suit may hold up and have merit it could Just as easily be a complete fabrication of a legitimately terminated employee.
Regardless, a lesson to be learned by Walter is the need to involve the Human Resources Department of these situations when they first begin to surface. This is important so that the company is certain that all policies and procedures are documentation of the situation(s) in the event of a lawsuit. Court proceedings can be costly for companies, but losses in court can be even costlier. Human Resource involvement can help ensure that the company has the documentation to prove it did to violate any laws and is not liable for damages.
I found interesting the comment by Walter’s legal representative that because Omar did not seek workers’ compensation benefits while he was working for Walter, he did not receive immediate medical care. I would think that immediate care would come before a workers’ compensation claim. The comment seemed a bit reckless to me. Of course, it does not prove guilt on the part of Walter. Http://abnormalities. Com/2013/01 /22/news/lesion-auburn/Lisbon- man-sues- Walter-alleges-racial-discrimination-retaliation/