Maine Supreme Court holds Saddleback liable for electrician’s discharge

The Maine Supreme Court has issued a memorandum opinion holding the Saddleback Ski Resort liable for its role in the discharge of an electrician who blew the whistle. Electrician Robert Duggan, Jr., blew the whistle on Saddleback’s use of its maintenance crew to install a high-voltage electric line. Duggan reported that Saddleback was using unlicensed electricians for the work, and that they made the installation unsafe by failing to make proper connections and grounds.

Saddleback argued that it should not be liable for Duggan’s discharge since it was not his direct employer.  The Court disagreed, noting the Maine law makes an employer liable if it was was "aiding, abetting, inciting, compelling or coercing another" to cause the adverse action.

Auburn attorney Rebecca S. Webber represented Duggan.  Webber told the Morning Sentinel that this is Maine’s first case establishing that non-employers are liable for their actions causing another employer to retaliate.  This is a common problem for whistleblowers in the construction trades.  The subcontractors who actually employ the workers may not have the same resources as other entities up the line.  In Maine, at least, employers cannot hide behind layers of contractors, and they will have to answer for their own retaliation against whistleblowers.
The case is Maine Human Rights Commission et al. v. Saddleback, Inc., et al., Case No. And-08-640, Mem 09-128.
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