A recent case, Peasley v. Regis Corporation, resulted in a jury awarding $80,000 in punitive damages to the plaintiff, a hair stylist named Valerie Peasley. The claim was filed under the Maine Whistleblower Protection Act.
Peasley says she reported to the manager of her salon that some of her coworkers had been selling and using drugs in the workplace, and had also been stealing from the business and nearby stores. Just a few weeks after she reported these incidents, which qualify as protected whistleblower disclosures, her employer, the Regis Corporation, fired her.
Peasley filed a retaliation lawsuit and eventually won. Regis attempted to challenge the ruling, arguing that the damages were inappropriate because Peasley had not established any sort of convincing evidence showing the company acted out of malice in the termination. The judge, however, said Peasley had fulfilled her need to prove malice by demonstrating that a high-ranking executive in the company who had a say in the decision to fire her had acted with “reckless disregard” for her rights.
Whistleblowers have incentives to expose wrongdoing
Juries across the country are approving increasingly substantial awards of punitive and other compensatory damages to whistleblowers in these types of cases. The Peasley case is just the latest example of the potential benefits whistleblowers have to gain by speaking up when they become aware of wrongdoing within their organizations.
If you would like to learn more about your rights when it comes to whistleblower claims, speak with Steve Kardell at Whistleblower Law for Managers today.