A former Maine Medical Center doctor has filed a federal lawsuit against MaineHealth that says he was fired after asking to be reassigned when he could no longer do surgery because of his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

Dr. Joseph Rappold, a U.S. Navy veteran, was hired by the Portland hospital in 2015 and promoted to vice chair of critical care in 2019, according to the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Portland.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2020, but was still able to perform surgery through early 2022, when he started having symptoms, including tremors and “loss of dexterity.” Once unable to safely perform surgery, Rappold asked to be re-assigned to an open administrative position within the hospital or have his job duties modified because he could no longer perform surgery.

MaineHealth, the parent organization of Maine Med, disputed the lawsuit’s claims in a statement released Monday afternoon, and said Rappold remains an employee of MaineHealth.

“MaineHealth disputes the claims made in this suit, including accusations of discrimination, which are entirely without merit,” the statement said. “Dr. Rappold remains employed with MaineHealth, and we respect and appreciate his contributions to our mission. We are disappointed that he has chosen to take this action.”

The lawsuit stated that “Dr. Rappold’s surgical duties made up only a small and marginal portion of his overall job responsibilities, with other non-surgical components, including management, administration, research, education, and directorial and clinical duties making up the vast majority of his role.”


However, according to the lawsuit, “(Maine Med) leadership refused to meaningfully engage with Dr. Rappold in response to his requested accommodations. Instead, (Maine Med) demanded that Dr. Rappold formally release (Maine Med) from claims under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the MHRA (Maine Human Rights Act). When Dr. Rappold refused to sign a release, (Maine Med) terminated his employment.”

Rappold met with Maine Med leadership on April 7, 2022 “to discuss his request for an accommodation. During the meeting, however, the MMC leadership team declined to discuss any accommodation for Dr. Rappold; instead, the team merely discussed their desire to replace Dr. Rappold and reallocate his job responsibilities to others,” the lawsuit said.

At about the same time, Rappold heard of a vacant entirely administrative position in the hospital, and he applied for that job – vice chair of perioperative medicine.

But, according to the lawsuit, “rather than transfer Dr. Rappold to the vacant VCPM position, less than one month later, (Maine Med) sent Dr. Rappold a proposed agreement pursuant to which it purported to offer him an accommodation but only on the condition that he endorse an agreement purporting to release (Maine Med) for….violations of the ADA and MHRA.”

Rappold refused to sign the release, and three weeks later, on July 11, 2022, Maine Med fired him, according to the lawsuit.

Maine Med filled the vice chair of perioperative medicine position in September, and “Rappold was more qualified for the VCPM position than the candidate ultimately chosen” by the hospital, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says the hospital violated Rappold’s rights under the ADA and MHRA by refusing to make accommodations that would have allowed him to continue working. Rappold is requesting to either be given his job back or an unspecified monetary amount to compensate for lost wages, and punitive damages.

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