A woman has sued a South Portland nursing home, claiming she was fired from her job as a housekeeper in May 2020 for reporting that her supervisor had traveled to Massachusetts and failed to in quarantine after his return.
At the time, people returning to Maine after traveling had to self-quarantine for two weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic, then in its infancy. Residents were encouraged not to leave the state except in an emergency.
Navy Oum, 51, of Portland says the Sable Lodge Retirement CommunityLLC, discriminated against her because of her race and violated the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Act, the Maine Human Rights Act and the Maine Whistleblower Act when she fired her.
Oum, who is Asian, was hired in October 2018. She also claimed in her lawsuit that her supervisor “mocked” her accent and called her a “troublemaker”.
Oum’s lawsuit is one of a growing number of labor lawsuits nationwide alleging coronavirus-related labor and employment violations. His case also alleges alleged anti-Asian discrimination, which studies have shown picked up across the country after the start of the coronavirus pandemic and the focus on the Chinese origins of the virus, especially in conservative media.
Anti-Asian hate crimes rose 339% last year compared to 2020 figures, according to data compiled by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
Oum reported that her supervisor did not quarantine before returning to work on May 13, 2020, out of concern for “her own health, well-being and that of her co-workers and the elderly population of the facility. Sable Oaks,” the complaint states. She was fired the same day, her attorney Jeffrey Bennett of South Portland said Monday.
“Navy was informed by her employer that she was terminated for reporting that her supervisor failed to quarantine for 14 days before returning to work from Boston,” he said. “Throughout her tenure, Navy was routinely subjected to derogatory comments and ridicule for her Asian accent.”
The attorney representing Sable Lodge did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Oum seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, including the salary and benefits she would have earned had she stayed at work.
The lawsuit was originally filed in December in Cumberland County Superior Court. Sable Lodge transferred him to the US District Court in Portland last week.
A trial date has not been set.