Lawsuit Alleges Racial Harassment At A Maine Company That Makes Covid-19 Swabs

BANGOR, Maine (AP) — A Maine-based company that makes COVID-19 test swabs is being sued for allegedly condoning or refusing to stop racial harassment against a Black former employee at a plant that opened during a pandemic production surge.

While working at a Puritan Medical Products facility in Pittsfield, Dupreme Ammonds contends he was subjected to racial insults and references to so-called “ sundown towns ” where Black people had to be gone by nightfall or risk arrest, a beating or worse.

Ammonds, who is Black and Hispanic, was singled out by one particular worker who physically assaulted him and who was eventually fired, according to the federal lawsuit filed last week. Ammonds' manager retaliated against him over the firing and the harassment kept happening, the lawsuit said. Co-workers who stood up for Ammonds were threatened with firing by another company official, the suit alleges.

The Guilford-based company's CEO insisted Tuesday that it doesn't tolerate such conduct.

“While Puritan does not comment on pending cases, we deny violating the law and we look forward to defending ourselves before the court. Puritan does not tolerate inappropriate conduct in the workplace, and we remain fully committed to providing an appropriate workplace for all,” Robert Shultz, president and CEO, in a statement.

Ammonds was one of the first employees in January 2021 when Puritan expanded during the pandemic with the new plant in Pittsfield, helped by tens of millions of dollars from the Trump administration.

The company's alleged failure to stop the harassment against the 40-year-old from Hartland “took such a toll on his health that he was left with no choice but to leave his job” in April 2022, said Ryan Schmidt, his attorney.