Manon Oakes v. Northern Maine Medical Center
February 28, 2022
CategoriesAverage Weekly Wage Discrimination Average Weekly Wage Discrimination
Summary from the Troubh Heisler Attorneys
Manon Oakes v. NMMC – Ms. Oakes injured her left arm and shoulder working as a housekeeper for NMMC. She had surgery and return to work modified duty, with no left arm use. NMMC tried to accommodate her restrictions, but Oakes had to use both arms in her work. NMMC twice warned her that her job performance was substandard, and despite her ongoing work restrictions, they "required" her to "sign a full duty job description."
NMMC later terminated her employment "for cause," alleging she could not stay on task, could not perform her duties in a satisfactory manner, and had lied about doing them. NMMC also filed a NOC denying further incapacity benefits because she was fired for cause. Oakes filed petitions, including a discrimination petition. After hearing, Judge Pelletier found that her termination was not her fault but was instead discriminatory and rooted significantly in her work injury, work restrictions, and benefit claim. Judge Pelletier calculated her AWW under §102(4)(A), even though her wages varied slightly from week to week, and he awarded back wages on the discrimination claim and partial incapacity benefits.
NMMC appealed, but the Appellate Division affirmed the decision. The panel found that Judge Pelletier disbelieved NMMC’s witnesses about the basis of their actions and found instead they were rooted in Oakes's work-injury disability. The panel distinguished the Law Court's 2009 Lavoie decision, in which the employee was totally disabled and the employer voluntarily paid total incapacity benefits. To calculate the AWW, the panel allowed the use of subsection A, rather than subsection B, because Oakes’s wages varied little, and she had received a raise before her injury. Although Oakes was unable to perform her pre-injury job, the panel held that the §354 provision still applied, permitting the award of “back wages” offset by benefits paid.