LEWISTON — A Poland woman is suing St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center claiming she was wrongfully fired for discrimination and being a whistleblower.

In a complaint filed last week in U.S. District Court, Helena McFarland said she worked as an interpreter for patients at the hospital for two years. Her job ended in January 2019, when she was fired, she said.

She said she had a disability called brachial plexus neuropathy, an affliction that affects her ability to use one of her hands.

When she was hired for the job as an in interpreter in the French language, she was referred to WorkMed Occupational Health at St. Mary’s “for an evaluation,” she said in her lawsuit.

Because her job would require typing, she told WorkMed that she was seeking from St. Mary’s “Dragon” voice recognition software for her computer that would transcribe her spoken words into text in an effort to reduce the amount of typing she would have to perform.

Soon after she made that request for the “reasonable accommodation,” St. Mary’s “changed course” and rescinded her job offer, according to her complaint.

McFarland questioned the “turn of events” and asked St. Mary’s whether the hospital had withdrawn its job offer because of her disability. Then, St. Mary’s “again reversed course” and hired her, she said.

After she was hired, she “repeatedly requested” the dictation software she had specified for her computer to help her perform her job, she said.

Despite the “relatively inexpensive” price of the software, St. Mary’s told her it wouldn’t provide it for her “due to cost,” according to her lawsuit.

While working for St. Mary’s, McFarland witnessed fellow employees who also worked as interpreters “illegally accessing patients’ medical records on computers at St. Mary’s for no valid reason,” she said.

She told St. Mary’s about the other workers’ actions, but “defendant did not adequately address the situation” and McFarland was harassed by her co-workers for reporting what she believed to be “illegal behavior,” she said.

She was fired from her job for discrimination based on her disability and for whistleblowing activities regarding the “inappropriate activities” of the other workers as well as St. Mary’s denial of her request for reasonable accommodation due to a disability, according to her complaint.

McFarland is alleging unlawful employment discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
She also alleges unlawful employment discrimination in a hostile work environment and violation of the Whistleblowers Protection Act.

McFarland is seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well as legal costs.

Her Lewiston attorney, Verne Paradie, said his client had filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission, which considered it to be untimely, having been filed more than 300 days from last date of discrimination.

Steve Costello, a spokesman for St. Mary’s, confirmed Tuesday that McFarland had worked at the hospital, but no longer does. He said the claim is being investigated and declined further comment.

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