Wednesday, April 23, 2014
A federal lawsuit in which a 20-year employee of MaineGeneral Medical Center claims he was the victim of age and disability discrimination has survived an initial hurdle and is set for trial in August.
John Wyman, 61, of West Gardiner, sued the hospital in 2010 in a case that was moved to U.S. District Court in Maine. He claims he should have been among those given a newly created service desk center position, which aided people with computer problems.
He had been employed first as a computer operator, then as a client support technician in the hospital's Data Center Operations in Augusta for 20 years. Over the years of working there, he had various treatments for bladder cancer and had a cancerous kidney removed, according to the lawsuit filed by his attorney, Andrews Campbell.
Wyman received medical leave and was given a transitional, light-duty schedule each time he returned to work, according to court documents.
In June 2008, the hospital restructured its information technology division and told eight computer service technicians, including Wyman, they could apply for new jobs in that division.
Wyman applied for five jobs and was not hired. He appealed the decision to a hospital grievance panel, which ultimately upheld the hospital's decision.
One of the people hired for the new jobs was a man in his early 20s who had been hired as a per-diem employee in June 2008. MaineGeneral operates hospitals in both Augusta and Waterville.
"Wyman has raised a genuine issue whether he had comparable or better skills than the person who functionally replaced him," Magistrate Judge Margaret Kravchuk wrote in a recommended decision adopted last week by the trial judge, U.S. District Judge Nancy Torreson.
Kravchuk also said Wyman's "presentation is sufficient to generate a genuine issue in connection with his claims of discriminatory bias in employment decisions."
Torreson also affirmed Kravchuk's recommendation to dismiss a claim that the hospital failed to accommodate Wyman for a medical disability.
The case is now set for a bench trial Aug. 7 before Torreson.
Wyman is seeking reimbursement for lost pay, lost health insurance and lost disability insurance, among other damages.
Campbell said Tuesday his client receives Social Security disability payments and "they are much less than he would have received from MaineGeneral Medical Center."
Hospital spokeswoman Diane Peterson declined to comment because the case was still pending in court. The hospital, through attorney James Erwin, filed objections to part of Kravchuk's recommendation and said Wyman was not subjected to age or disability discrimination in the hiring process.
In the written objection, Erwin asked Torreson to dismiss all Wyman's claims against the hospital, saying Wyman had been told for several years he needed to improve his work and perform at a higher level.
Erwin said the younger worker selected for the job, "despite no experience or significant training on staffing a help desk, was capable of outperforming (Wyman) by a factor of more than two to one in call volume when both had the same opportunity to handle calls."
Betty Adams -- 621-5631