Sudanese Immigrant Sues Whole Foods, Alleging Discrimination

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Sudanese immigrant who had worked for Whole Foods Market in Maine for years is suing the company, alleging it discriminated against him when a manager prevented him from applying to a supervisory role.

Mark Opio, 36, requested that the Maine Human Rights Commission look into his claim that a supervisor at the Portland Whole Foods Market store canceled his interview for an assistant team leader position, the Portland Press Herald reported on Tuesday. The commission wrote in a November letter that it found there are reasonable grounds to believe Opio was discriminated against, allowing him to sue the company.

In the lawsuit, Opio says a manager canceled his interview for the position and said that he had not done enough to “prove” himself to his colleagues and failed to get them to “accept” him, the newspaper reported.

A spokesperson for Whole Foods told the newspaper the company had no statement because the matter is under litigation.

An attorney for Opio, Carol J. Garvan, said he had worked at the store for seven years until 2015, when he moved to Canada for a period. He returned to the store in 2018 and applied the next year for the open position as assistant team leader.

Opio has a bachelor's degree in business administration and management from the University of Southern Maine. He immigrated from Sudan to the United States 20 years ago and became a U.S. citizen in 2007, but said through his attorney that this experience makes him wonder if he will always be treated as second-class in this country.

In addition to seeking lost wages and damages, the suit seeks an order requiring civil rights training at Whole Foods.