A federal jury has awarded $3 million to a former Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center worker who said racial discrimination led to his firing.
Attorneys for David Ako-Annan, who is Black, said the damages represented the largest sum awarded for a racial discrimination case in Maine.
“The essence of Maine is that we are one big family where everyone is treated with respect and dignity and no one is more or less important. This case is critical to sending a message to EMMC that it must work harder to ensure the fair and equal treatment of workers who are Black or people of color,“ said David Webbert, one of Ako-Annan’s attorney.
Ako-Annan, 46, of Milford, immigrated from Ghana to Maine, where he graduated from the University of Maine, earned a master’s degree in business administration and human relations and counseling from Husson University, and worked as a practice manager at a primary care medical office operated by Northern Light EMMC.
In the lawsuit, he contended his intelligence was questioned and that he was subjected to intimidation and racially insensitive remarks. He said an internal complaint of racial discrimination was met with a disciplinary warning.
EMCC contended that Ako-Annan failed to do his job properly, leading to his termination, but the all-white jury on Thursday concluded he was a victim of racial stereotyping and implicit bias.
A spokesperson for Northern Light Health stood behind the contention that Ako-Annan was fired for poor performance. “We continue to stand behind our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion in our workforce and believe it was amply demonstrated in this case,” said Suzanne Spruce, chief marketing and communications officer.
The jury awarded $1.5 million in compensatory damages and $1.5 million in punitive damages. He’s also eligible for more than $300,000 in back pay, his attorneys said.