A Muslim man has sued Central Maine Healthcare Corp. in Lewiston alleging that the company discriminated against him on the basis of race, religion, gender and national origin when it eliminated his position in 2020.
Motaz El Kelani, who was born in Egypt but now lives and works in Texas, worked for Central Maine Clinical Associates Corp. as a practice manager from July 1, 2019, to May 20, 2020.
Central Maine Healthcare is the parent company of Central Maine Medical Center and the clinic where El Kelani worked.
El Kelani, who has dark skin, black hair and a beard, sued all three entities on Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland. He is seeking unspecified damages for back pay and benefits, compensatory and punitive damages, plus legal fees.
The allegations in the complaint, filed by El Kelani’s attorney John Gause of Bangor, are similar to those outlined in David Ako-Annan’s lawsuit. That case against Northern Light Health and Eastern Maine Medical Center resulted in the largest award in an employment discrimination case in Maine, according to Ako-Annan’s attorney, David Webbert of Augusta.
In November, an all-white jury awarded Ako-Annan, 46, of Milford $3 million in his racial discrimination lawsuit after a trial in federal court in Bangor. Ako-Annan was the practice manager of Northern Light Health and Eastern Maine Medical Center’s now-closed Orono primary care location.
A motion made by the hospital’s attorneys to reduce the award from $3 million to $800,000 is pending before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Nivison, who presided over Ako-Annan’s seven-day trial.
El Kelani claims that his supervisor, who is not named as a defendant in the lawsuit, accused him of being intimidating toward two Central Maine Healthcare staff members. The supervisor allegedly said that it could have been because he was male and Arab with dark features.
The supervisor advised El Kelhani to take some diversity training, but he refused, arguing that the concerns were not justified.
On April 16, 2020, El Kelhani sought religious accommodation and asked to work remotely for the month of Ramadan, the holiest time of year for Muslims.
During Ramadan, all healthy adult Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking and sexual activity from sunrise to sunset. The month is to be devoted to reflection and spiritual discipline, as well as the reading of the Quran, which was revealed to the prophet Muhammad by Allah during the final days of the month of Ramadan.
Followers also are expected to perform good deeds and pray more often than the usual five times a day, including each evening in a mosque with other Muslims if possible.
Instead of granting the accommodation, Central Maine Clinical Associates placed El Kelhani on an involuntary, unpaid furlough on April 20, 2020, the complaint said. His position was eliminated a month later. On June 20, 2020, he applied for an open position as a practice manager at a different location but was not hired for that job, the lawsuit claims.
Both Gause and Central Maine Healthcare’s attorney, Laura Rideout of Portland, declined to comment on the lawsuit.