Yesterday in Bangor, a jury held that Regis Corporation violated Maine’s Whistleblower Protection Act when it retaliated against former employee Valerie Peasley. Regis operates hair salons nationwide and Ms. Peasley worked at one of Regis’s salons in Bangor. Attorneys Peter Thompson and Chad Hansen, of the Maine Employee Rights Group, represented Ms. Peasley at trial.
Regis terminated Ms. Peasley because she reported to the company that some employees at her salon were using and selling illegal drugs in the workplace. The jury awarded Ms. Peasley $40,000 in compensatory damages and $80,000 in punitive damages.
Ms. Peasley worked for Regis for more than a decade. After she and another employee reported the illegal drug activity to Regis, they were labeled “narcs” at work. The people who engaged in the illegal drug activity and a manager at the salon were friends. Just three weeks after Ms. Peasley reported the illegal drug activity, Regis fired her.
Like most employers who retaliate against an employee for reporting illegal activity, Regis came up with an excuse to cover up the unlawful reason for Ms. Peasley’s termination. Attorneys Thompson and Hansen successfully proved to the jury that Regis’s excuse was not the real reason Regis terminated Ms. Peasley but was, instead, a cover-up for the real reason—unlawful retaliation. They proved it was an excuse, in part, with evidence that when Regis was required to explain why it terminated Ms. Peasley to the Maine Human Rights Commission and during the course of litigation, Regis could not get its story straight.
Ms. Peasley is also entitled to back pay, on top of the $120,000 that the jury awarded her, for the wages that she lost as a result of her termination. The judge will decide how much back pay Regis must pay to Ms. Peasley.
The purpose of Maine’s Whistleblower Protection Act is to protect workers who have the courage to come forward and oppose illegal or unsafe activities in the workplace. The Maine Employee Rights Group is committed to helping workers, like Ms. Peasley, who face retaliation for opposing illegal or unsafe activities.