Former worker suing Mack

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BENNINGTON — A woman fired in 2016 from her job at Mack Molding is suing the Arlington-based company over several alleged violations of fair employment practices and family leave statutes.

Former longtime Mack Molding employee Angela Gates, of Mount Holly, also alleges a "pattern of discrimination and retaliation" against her and other employees over a number of years — allegations the firm's attorneys deny in seeking to have the suit dismissed in Bennington Superior Court Civil Division.

Attorney Siobhan McCloskey, representing Gates, said this week that details in the 23-page complaint indicate such alleged violations "are a systemic part of their organization, seemingly."

She said that based on conversations with Gates and other current or former employees, "I think we will see others come out" with allegations against the company.

McCloskey, of White River Junction, added that she's amending the complaint to reflect alleged retaliatory treatment against the woman's husband, Donald Gates, after the suit was filed in November. Donald Gates is currently a Mack employee.

Attorneys Pamela Coyne and Timothy Copeland Jr., of Downs Rachlin Martin, of Brattleboro, representing Mack Molding, filed a 22-page response to the suit in early January, denying the allegations and the salient details of the complaint narrative.

They also request "that the complaint be dismissed and that the relief sought therein be denied in all respects."

In their conclusions, the attorneys contend Gates' complaint fails in whole or part to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and/or that issues were raised after a time period for filing had lapsed.

They also contend that Gates "did not suffer any adverse employment actions as a result of the alleged actions by Mack Molding;" "failed to properly mitigate her alleged damages;" and that "to the extent plaintiff asserts a claim for punitive damages, the actions alleged in the complaint do not warrant such relief."

In the suit, Gates alleges she was "willfully and maliciously subjected" by the company to wrongful actions, including "interference with medical leave rights;" "retaliation for exercising medical leave rights;" "disability discrimination;" as well as retaliation for filing a worker's compensation claim; age discrimination, gender discrimination, equal pay violations; "breach of an implied employment contract and covenant of good faith and fair dealing;" and non-payment of certain wages.

Gates seeks compensation for alleged emotional stress, damage to her personal relationships, "damages to her reputation, finances and business;" lost back pay and other wages; lost benefits, and "costs; interest; and reasonable attorney's fees."

In each instance, Mack Molding denies the suit's allegations and/or the details as presented by the plaintiff.

Copeland said Wednesday that the company would not comment further on the pending legal matter.

The suit alleges violations of the Vermont Fair Employment Practices Act and Vermont Parental and Family Leave Act, among its allegations.

Incidents cited in the suit include several surrounding a two-week leave of absence in 2013 during which the company allegedly did not inform Gates she qualified for family medical leave benefits; and a knee injury Gates said she sustained outside of work in 2015, resulting in a lingering injury.

She alleges that upon her return to work in 2015, she asked for accommodation on her job, primarily concerning lifting requirements. Gates alleges that she was assigned to work on a job "which was known to be a difficult job and on which she was not working on before her leave."

The suit also lists other alleged similar incidents involving former employees of the company.

Gates said that after three days in the more strenuous job, she was in pain and was sent home by another worker.

In October 2015, according to the suit, she was cleared by a doctor to work four hours per day as a molder but was told her position had been filled, which Gates disputes. She said she was forced to work as a finisher at a pay cut and lost her seniority in the molding department.

By May 2016, after several months of working in the finishing department full time, she was treated for pain and requested lighter duty employment with Mack.

The suit contends the company has "a deliberate and continuous pattern" of placing employees in a more strenuous job in an effort to discriminate against them or retaliate for having filed a worker's compensation complaint, requested accommodation on the job, or having taken medical leave.

Gates worked for nearly 20 years as a molder and then as a finisher at Mack Molding, according to the complaint.

The suit also alleges gender discrimination, in which certain lower-paying positions allegedly are mostly filled by women, while most higher-paying and/or supervisory jobs are filled by men.

And it is alleged that the company has a pattern of wrongfully firing older workers and replacing them with younger workers. Gates contends she was fired seven months prior to becoming eligible for a full pension and that others have been fired close to the date they would have been eligible for full retirement benefits.

The company denies the allegations.

According to the suit, the Arlington-based firm has more than 2,000 employees at six factories in the eastern U.S.

Mack Molding — http://www.mack.com — manufactures plastic and metal products for the medical industry and other economic sectors.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. Email: jtherrien@benningtonbanner.com. @BB_therrien on Twitter.

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