A former office manager at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center’s primary care practice in Orono has sued the Bangor hospital, alleging that a supervisor discriminated against him because he’s black and male.
David Ako-Annan, 43, of Milford also claims that he was fired after expressing concerns to a supervisor that a medical provider was writing inappropriate prescriptions for narcotics, prescribing narcotics to a person suspected of selling them, using medical assistants outside the scope of their practice, and falsifying family and medical leave documents for staff.
In addition to the discrimination claims, Ako-Annan alleged that his firing violated the Maine Whistleblower Protection Act.
A native of Ghana who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, Ako-Annan is seeking unspecified compensatory damages, including back pay and the salary and benefits he would have earned had he not been fired, as well as punitive damages.
Tricia Denham, director of communications and marketing for EMMC, said the organization does not comment on pending litigation.
“This being said, in this case we will say that we expressly deny any wrongful treatment of Mr. Ako-Annan and intend to vigorously defend the medical center against his lawsuit in court,” she added.
Ako-Annan worked as the office manager of the practice at 84 Kelley Road in Orono from 2016 to April 2, 2019, the lawsuit said.
He claimed in the lawsuit that, among other things, his female supervisor questioned his intelligence, suggested he look elsewhere for work, made racially insensitive remarks and told him he was to apply staff rules differently to female employees than to male employees.
Ako-Annan said in the lawsuit that his difficulties with EMMC began in the spring of 2013 when he worked in the Brewer office of EMMC’s parent organization — which was then called Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems — as a college intern, the complaint said.
He reported two of his co-workers for alleged racial discrimination, but the problem was not addressed, the lawsuit said. He learned later that a different co-worker who supported him in that complaint, who is only identified by initials, was fired.
That person later filed a claim of retaliation with the Maine Human Rights Commission. In April 2018, the former co-worker’s attorney and attorneys for EMMC interviewed Ako-Annan, according to the complaint.
Ako-Annan filed complaints with the Maine Human Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is standard practice before a lawsuit is filed. He received right-to-sue letters before the agencies were able to investigate and issue findings.
Since being fired, Ako-Annan has not found a new job but is pursuing a doctorate degree in business administration.
His attorney, Brett Baber of Bangor, originally sued the region’s largest hospital in October in Penobscot County Superior Court. Last week, EMMC’s attorney, Melissa Hewey of Portland, moved the suit to federal court in Bangor.
EMMC’s answer to the lawsuit is due Friday.
The medical center is one of nine hospitals under the parent organization Northern Light Health that stretch from Portland to Presque Isle. The hospitals and their affiliated medical practices together employ about 12,000 people.