AUGUSTA — A human rights panel sided 4-0 with an Auburn woman Monday, finding reasonable grounds to believe she was discriminated against by J&S Oil Co., which is based in Manchester.

Lorraine Farris, now 32, had sought relief from the Maine Human Rights Commission saying she was unlawfully subjected to a hostile work environment, fired and retaliated against after repeatedly reporting sexual harassment.

“I’m very happy,” Farris said as she stood outside the hearing room with her attorney. “It was great to know they didn’t get away with it.”

Her eyes were still filled with tears. She had started to begin to cry almost immediately after the commissioners voted.

She said she was so emotional because “it was probably one of the hardest things I’ve done in life.”

Farris said she is currently working at another job.


According to a report by the commission’s chief investigator, Alice Neal, Farris said she was subject to sexually explicit overtures from a shift leader in March 2013, which the company addressed by demoting and relocating the man. However, Farris said another assistant manager began seeking a personal relationship with her, showing up at her home uninvited, and the manager said nothing could be done because it occurred outside work.

J&S Oil, represented by attorney John Lambert Jr., maintained that Farris was fired for theft of a pack of cigarettes, saying, “The termination happened within hours of (the manager) being informed of possible theft.”

Farris had worked as a cashier at the company’s Auburn store from January 2013 to March 10, 2014.

Lambert said the manager viewed a video of a customer purchasing the cigarettes and then leaving them behind.

Farris’ attorney, Rebecca Webber, said Farris believed the pack in the employee break room was one she had purchased, and that customers’ items were not allowed in the employee room. Webber also said the manager who fired Farris had worked with Farris for only five days. The investigator reported that Farris had complained of sexual harassment on the same day she was fired.

Neal’s analysis says, “The discharge decision here can be considered the culmination of a lengthy pattern of hostile treatment on the basis of complainant’s sex.”


At the hearing, Neal said, “It seemed implausible to me that (Farris) would make multiple complaints to managers and they wouldn’t do anything.”

Commission Chairman Arnold Clark at one point asked why a separation checklist filled out in March 10, 2014, indicated the theft and “a long history of performance issues” when a performance appraisal of Farris’ work from five days earlier said, “Lorraine is one of our most accurate cashiers.”

The complaint also lists as a defendant Nouria Energy Corp., and the J&S Division of Nouria Energy of Worcester, Massachusetts, and the finding was against that defendant as well.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams


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