AUBURN — A jury has found that a Lewiston hospital discriminated against a Lewiston woman on religious grounds.

Helen Crabtree had applied for a part-time job as a nursing assistant at Central Maine Medical Center through a program at Maine College of Health Professions in Lewiston, where she was studying, according to documents at Androscoggin County Superior Court.

In August 2015, during an interview for the position, she told the hospital that she would need a “reasonable accommodation” because, based on her religious beliefs, she shouldn’t be scheduled to work on the Sabbath, according to her complaint filed in that court.

The hospital “prepared an offer of employment” for her, “but informed her that she would be scheduled to work one weekend every three weeks,” according to the complaint. “It further informed her that, if she did not want to work on the Sabbath, it would be her responsibility to swap shifts with another employee.”

As a “devout and practicing Seventh Day Adventist, she dutifully observes the Sabbath from sundown on Fridays until sundown on Saturdays,” according to her complaint.

It said that working on the Sabbath, as well as requesting that others work on the Sabbath in her place, violates her “sincerely held religious belief that all people should honor the Sabbath.”


She “explained that she could not have the responsibility of encouraging others to work on the Sabbath by requesting that they take her Saturday shifts, as that would violate her religious beliefs,” according to the complaint.

The hospital responded by rescinding its job offer, “citing her inability to commit to its scheduling requirements,” the complaint said.

Crabtree sued, claiming religious discrimination in employment, a violation of the Maine Human Rights Act.

Before filing her complaint in court, Crabtree brought her case to the Maine Human Rights Commission, which concluded there were “reasonable grounds” to support her claim, her complaint said.

After failing to resolve the dispute through a conciliation process, the commission issued a letter to Crabtree in October 2018 advising her that she had two years from the date of the “alleged unlawful discrimination complained of” or within 90 days from the date of the letter, whichever was later, to file a complaint.

She filed her complaint in court in January 2019.

A jury found in her favor after a May trial. In July, the judge awarded her $24,559 in back pay. Later, she was awarded $4,644.21 in interest and legal costs totaling $4,597.96, according to court papers.

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