PORTLAND — A former Hannaford Bros. Co. supervisor contends he was fired last year in retaliation, in part, for reporting racially insensitive nicknames directed at another employee.
He also claims he was dismissed because he opposed the company’s decision not to approve a schedule change for another associate.
James McLean, of Cape Elizabeth, filed a civil lawsuit in U.S. District Court April 9 against Scarborough-based Hannaford’s parent company, Delhaize America Transportation LLC. McLean was first employed as a truck driver and then promoted to a distribution operations supervisor.
According to the lawsuit, the company told McLean he was fired for insubordination. Delhaize, in an email statement, said as a matter of policy it does not comment on pending litigation.
McLean is seeking a jury trial, unspecified punitive damages, and a statement by the company to employees that retaliation will not be tolerated in the future.
McLean, who complained about his termination and the incidents surrounding it to the Maine Human Rights Commission last August, received a right-to-sue notice from the investigative agency in February.
McLean claims he was fired for reporting another supervisor had called an employee “chico” and “my Mexican.” The employee who was targeted is of Mexican decent and told McLean about the behavior in private, adding he did not report it to his union because he feared it would cause more trouble than it was worth, according to the complaint.
McLean then reported the name-calling to the company’s human resources department and to his supervisor, who he said did not investigate. McLean said his supervisor told him he would “take care” of the situation, but a report was never entered into a program administered by a third party to document such incidents.
During the same period, another employee requested his schedule be adjusted to care for a sick child, as allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act. His schedule was pushed back by one hour, but the employee was still sometimes late, so the schedule was revisited and pushed back by an additional hour.
McLean said he felt the employee was entitled to the adjustment and approved it, but McLean’s supervisor, upon learning of the change, said he would not approve it “just because,” according to the lawsuit.
McLean claims he believed his supervisor’s action was illegal and opposed it, and told the employee it had not been allowed. McLean was later accused of lying to the employee about the change not being approved, and was put on leave during an investigation into whether he had been truthful about the discussion.
McLean was eventually fired and subsequently learned several people involved in the discussions were not interviewed as part of the investigation.
In his performance review shortly before his termination, McLean received a “meets standards” score from his supervisor, according to the lawsuit. While he did not necessarily agree with the assessment, he said he signed the review because he was eager to get home after a shift.
He was terminated two weeks following the review meeting, and said when he received his written review, it had been altered to read “partially meets standards.”
McLean appealed his termination twice, and was told by upper management in the company he had been fired for insubordination, and that they did not have sufficient evidence to overturn the decision.
The case is being heard by Judge George Z. Singal.