An Androscoggin County man who worked at the Auburn Walmart as a greeter has sued the discount giant alleging he was discriminated against on the basis of race and disability.
Arnold B. McLean, 57, of Auburn also claims that he was fired on the pretext that he missed too many days of work due to allergy attacks brought on by being forced to work in the lawn and garden section.
His lawsuit alleges that Walmart defamed “his occupational and professional fitness for employment by saying he was terminated for ‘poor attendance’ and/or for being absent from work without proper notification of an adequate excuse.”
It is the second time this year that a discrimination lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Maine against Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas.
In February the Maine Human Rights Commission sued the company over its Skowhegan location’s alleged refusal to allow an employee with an intellectual disability to have a set weekly schedule. That lawsuit is pending in federal court in Bangor.
The Auburn man is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages including back pay and benefits. McLean also wants a judge or jury to find that Walmart discriminated against him.
McLean, who lost a leg to bone cancer and is Black, uses a wheelchair and an electric scooter, according to the complaint filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland. He relied on public transportation, which ends at 5:30 p.m. in the Lewiston-Auburn area, to get to and from work.
He began working at the Auburn location on June 30, 2014, the complaint said. McLean was fired on July 11, 2019. Initially, he had an accommodation that allowed him to finish his shift by 5:30 p.m. so he could catch the bus home. When McLean was assigned a new supervisor, the store allegedly rescinded that accommodation.
The complaint alleges that the new supervisor created a hostile work environment by publicly laughing at and making fun of McLean and urging other employees to do the same. The supervisor also allegedly called McLean into the office repeatedly though he had done nothing wrong, changed and reduced his work hours, and failed to schedule him for shifts.
McLean received a right-to-sue letter from the Maine Human Rights Commission, his attorney Marshall Tinkle of Portland said Thursday.
“Mr. McLean was a very conscientious and loyal employee and Walmart repaid him by blatantly discriminating against him,” Tinkle said. “He is seeking justice against a company that is notorious for badly treating its employees.”
Allison Van Matre, director of corporate communications for Walmart, denied the allegations in the lawsuit on Thursday.
“We don’t tolerate discrimination of any kind, and provide thousands of associates throughout the company with reasonable accommodations as appropriate,” she said. “We deny the allegations, including that Mr. McLean indicated in any way that his persistent attendance issues were related to a disability. We take this seriously and plan to defend the company.”