On April 14, 2017, after a week-long trial in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine in Portland, Bergen & Parkinson secured a substantial victory for its client in an employment case. Attorneys Laura White and Courtney Michalec Hart represented client, a phlebotomist and lab assistant who had worked for NorDx and its predecessor lab for 32 years. The client was dismissed in February 2015 and filed a lawsuit, alleging that her dismissal was the result of age discrimination, disability discrimination, Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) violations and violation of the Maine Whistleblower Protection Act (MWPA), among other claims. The whistleblower claim was based on NorDx’s repeated failure to respond to her claims of harassment by her supervisor, in violation of its own internal policies, and its termination of her soon after she again brought the issue to the attention of Human Resources.
Trial was held in Portland from April 10 through 14, after which the jury returned a unanimous verdict for our client on her whistleblower claim. The jury awarded her $50,000.00 in back pay and $450,000.00 in punitive damages for a total award of $500,000.00. Punitive damage awards are generally intended not only to punish a wrongdoer, but also to deter the defendant and others from acting in a similar manner in the future. In our client’s case, the jury’s award reflects the severity of NorDx’s failure to address her harassment complaints and sends a powerful message to NorDx and other employers about the importance of following the law and protecting employees who report harassment.