Webbert got evidence under oath that supports wrongful termination

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Former Buckfield library director wins unemployment appeal with DOL

BUCKFIELD — After initially being denied unemployment benefits, the former Buckfield library director won her appeal with the Department of Labor, which  ruled she was entitled to unemployment. The town can appeal the most recent ruling.

West Minot resident Bonnie Santos was the Zadoc Free Library director from February 2014 until Jan. 21, 2017, when Buckfield Town Manager Cindy Dunn terminated her.  Santos previously served as assistant director of the library since 2010.

The ruling stating the town must pay Santos unemployment benefits came from Department of Labor Administrative Hearing Officer Wayne Reed, according to Santos’ attorney, David Webbert.

“The process has been a ping pong match,” Dunn said about the denial and appeal of unemployment benefits for Santos. “It was ruled in the town’s favor initially. The second time it was ruled in the former employee’s favor.”

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Santos and Webbert say that her termination was unlawful and it violated town’s Personnel Policy, the Maine Human Rights Act, including the right to medical leave, the Maine Whistleblowers’ Protection Act, the Maine Family Medical Leave Requirements law and the federal constitutional right to due process. They assert Santos was fired because she was scheduled to take a medical leave for a necessary heart surgery, which Dunn has denied.

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Last week, Santos welcomed the news of her appeal.

“I am very pleased that the Department of Labor appeals hearing officer’s … report that I received Monday, [May 8] confirmed that I am entitled to unemployment benefits based on the incorrect procedure that was used to fire me,” Santos said.

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The town’s Personnel Policy has a number of steps for disciplining an employee, including counseling and verbal warning, written warning, suspension and final written warning and termination.

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Regardless of what action the town decides to take on the appeal, there is still Santos’ wrongful termination case that needs to be settled.

“We won the unemployment but more importantly we got evidence under oath that supports the wrongful termination case,” Webbert said. “Bonnie would like to resolve this matter out of court. Life is too short. I recommend [to] all my clients legal action … should be a last resort. … Mediation, for example, is a very normal thing people would go to and have. Why would you not do that?”

He added he offered the town go to mediation to work out Santos’ case, but did not receive a response back.

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Webbert said moving forward, he would file a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission before taking the matter to court.