King v. Bangor Federal Credit Union

A bank teller sued her employer for discrimination on the basis of a pulmonary handicap, which was worsened by the employer’s decision not to implement a total smoking ban in the office.  A Superior Court judge granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment; the employee appealed.  The Supreme Judicial Court of Maine ruled that a release signed by the employee in connection with a workers’ compensation claim did not bar her employment discrimination claim and that issues of material fact existed as to whether the employee voluntarily left her job and whether the employer took reasonable steps to accommodate her handicap.  Therefore, the SJC vacated the summary judgment and remanded the case back to the trial court.

The trial court found that King was not visibly affected by the workplace environment, that the employer was willing to discuss other options at the time of King’s resignation and that, therefore, the bank had not illegally discriminated against her.  On July 23, 1992, the Maine Supreme Court, at 611 A.2d 80, 7.4 TPLR 2.117 (Me. 1992), unanimously ruled that the trial court’s decision should not be overturned on appeal because “we cannot conclude that in these circumstances a reasonable person would have felt compelled to resign.”  See “Court Says Non-Smoker Wasn’t Forced to Quit,” Portland Press Herald, July 24, 1992, 3B; and “Can’t Take the Smoke,” National Law Journal, August 10, 1992, 6.

568 A.2d 507 (Me. 1989).