Roberta de Araujo wins Maine Human Rights Commission ruling for whistleblower

Published in Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA, Maine — A man who claimed he was fired from his job as a bartender at a Portland [Employer location] likely was terminated in retaliation, the Maine Human Rights Commission ruled Monday.

In the first case, documents filed with the commission indicated that [Employee] of Portland had worked at [Employer location] since 1989, most recently as assistant bar manager. More than two years ago, he observed what he thought was evidence that the bar manager had taken $100 from the sale of chance tickets sold at the club. He presented the information to the [Employer’s] board of directors and the bar manager was fired.

[Employee] then was offered the bar manager job, which he took on two conditions: that he be given a written job description and that he be able to return to his assistant manager job if the manager position did not work out. [Employee] was fired a few weeks later.

[MHRC] Investigator told the panel that in reviewing minutes from the [Employer] board meetings, it was clear the former bar manager had support from some board members and that they believed he had been falsely accused of stealing. The former manager was rehired, and that man — unnamed in the documents — wanted [Employee] fired.

Attorney representing the [Employer], told commissioners the post had wanted a continuance to better prepare its response, in part because a mailed notice went to a man who had died, delaying its review. That request was denied by the rights commission.

“The [Employer] did the best they could,” [Employer’s Attorney] said, but maintained that there was more to the story than the investigator found. “It’s obvious that there is additional information,” he said. [Employee’s] attorney, Roberta de Araujo, countered that the [Employer] “had ample opportunity to include any information.”

[Investigator] told commissioners that the [Employer] listed several reasons why they fired [Employee], but never mentioned the so-called whistle-blower event in which the apparent theft was reported.

“I found it notable that the [Employer] made no mention of the elephant in the room,” he said.

The commission voted 4-0 that [Employee’s] claim had reasonable grounds. In cases in which the commission finds reasonable grounds, both parties are encouraged to reconcile and reach a settlement. If conciliation fails, the complainant may file a civil lawsuit in Maine Superior Court, where a binding settlement can include monetary damages.