A Black-Hispanic man has filed a civil rights complaint with U.S. District Court in Bangor against Puritan Medical Products, alleging managers and co-workers at the swab maker’s Pittsfield facility racially harassed him.

Dupreme Ammonds, a Hartland resident, worked for 14 months at Puritan Medical Products, which makes tongue depressors, and swabs used in COVID-19 test kits and other medical applications.

Ammonds alleges that several workers there used racist slurs against him, targeted him with stereotype-based “jokes” and intimidated him with threatening comments.

“This campaign of discrimination and harassment was constant and ongoing. Co-workers and supervisor alike participated in the hostility,” the lawsuit states. “The harassment included multiple instances of white co-workers calling Mr. Ammonds the full ‘N-word’ or purposefully using it in front of him.”

He also claims that after repeatedly complaining to managers and human resources officials, he was told not to file more complaints.

“Human resources reprimanded Mr. Ammonds and told him to be mindful of how his words could hurt others. This alone was more discipline than other employees faced for the heinous racism they directed at Mr. Ammonds on a near daily basis,” the suit states.


In a brief written statement, Puritan denied the allegations.

“While Puritan does not comment on pending cases, we deny violating the law and we look forward to defending ourselves before the court,” Marketing Director Virginia Templet said in an email on Tuesday. “Puritan does not tolerate inappropriate conduct in the workplace, and we remain fully committed to providing an appropriate workplace for all.”

White co-workers stood up for Ammonds, the lawsuit states. In one instance, four employees went to the human resources department with complaints about a specific white worker who was allegedly harassing Ammonds. But the lawsuit states that Tracy Brawn, in the human resources department, told the group that their complaints were considered harassment and they would be terminated for any future complaints.

This behavior came at a cost to Ammonds, according to the lawsuit. His mental health “deteriorated” amid the “constant racial harassment” and “extreme indifference of – if not encouragement by – upper management and human resources.”

Ammonds ultimately left the company in April 2022, which was recommended by his medical providers, to address “severe anxiety and mental health issues that arose from the horrific treatment at Puritan.”

One co-worker who regularly harassed Ammonds was fired after he physically assaulted Ammonds in front of supervisors, the lawsuit states.


But according to the lawsuit, no other employees who allegedly harassed Ammonds faced repercussions.

“With the exception of Willie Ashe – who had also physically assaulted Mr. Ammonds – Puritan did not discipline the employees who had harassed and discriminated against Mr. Ammonds,” the lawsuit states. “None of them were reassigned – only Mr. Ammonds was.”

Ammonds’ pursuit of justice included a lengthy process with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which granted him a Right to Sue notice. He has been motivated by the desire to protect other people of color working at Puritan from the alleged abuse he experienced – further complicated by what his attorneys have said are the challenges of living in an overwhelmingly white region like Somerset County.

“Dupreme has a strong sense of justice and a commitment to bettering community. He hopes that by pursuing justice through the courts, he can help to make his community a safer and more welcoming place,” said Ryan Schmitz, Ammond’s lawyer with Maine law firm Johnson & Webbert. “(This harassment) comes from a pervasive attitude of white supremacy that people of color face across Maine and the country. By filing this lawsuit, Dupreme is directly challenging that dynamic.”

Through request for a jury trial, Ammonds is asking the court to declare that Puritan violated the Civil Rights Act and command the company to stop engaging in the behavior Ammonds allegedly faced. He is also asking the court for monetary damages to compensate for economic losses and “emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation and embarrassment.”

Puritan Medical Products received $126.5 million from two federal contracts in 2020 to ramp up its production of medical swabs for patients taking COVID-19 tests during a shortage of swabs and other supplies. In June 2023, Puritan laid off 272 positions – around 215 from the Pittsfield plant – because it was “coping with post-COVID market conditions” as demand for testing swabs plummeted, the company said in a statement.

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