Aroostook County man suing Family Dollar over firing, unpaid overtime

Posted Aug. 15, 2013, at 6:53 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 16, 2013, at 6:30 a.m.

MADAWASKA, Maine — A former Family Dollar employee from northern Maine is suing the retailer in federal court over allegations of unpaid overtime, employee discrimination and intimidation.

According to the filed complaint, Kevin Dionne of Cross Lake is seeking “punitive and compensatory damages, [monetary] losses, emotional pain, suffering and inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and other [monetary] losses” in addition to all attorney and court fees.

On Thursday, Dionne, who is currently employed by Marden’s in Madawaska, referred all questions for comment to his attorney, Peter S. Kelly of Caribou.

Also on Thursday, attorney Sarah Green of the law firm Littler Mendelson P.C., representing Family Dollar, Inc, referred all questions and requests for comment to her client, who did not immediately respond.

According to the complaint, in July 2009, Dionne was employed by Family Dollar as a manager at the retailer’s Madawaska store when he said he caught a female employee stealing from the store.

Later that same day, Dionne said in the complaint, the female employee accused him of sexual harassment. Dionne said he was not made aware of that accusation for more than a year, until August 2010, when he was then asked by Family Dollar to respond to the woman’s allegation in writing.

Twenty minutes after submitting his written response, Dionne said in the complaint, he was fired despite receiving top ratings in a 2009 job performance evaluation which made no mention of the sexual harassment allegation.

In the court documents, Dionne stated that Family Dollar never conducted an investigation into the female employee’s allegations and that she later recanted her accusations, admitting she made them to save her own job.

Dionne said in his lawsuit that Family Dollar had been sued in the past for sexual harassment and wanted to avoid a similar suit being brought by the female employee.

Dionne also stated that Family Dollar never investigated his allegation of theft by that female employee.

Dionne took the matter to the Maine Human Rights Commission, which on April 9 provided Dionne with a right to sue letter.

“Dionne did good work as a manager [but] when he complained about a [female] co-employee she retaliated,” Kelly said. “He felt he was not treated fairly.”

Dionne also is seeking damages in connection with alleged nonpayment of overtime for the years his job title listed him as a “manager” but his duties included “nonmanagerial work” 80 percent of the time, including cashier, stocking inventory, unloading trucks and cleaning floors and bathrooms.

During that time Dionne states he was paid a weekly salary of $732, and often worked more than 80 hours a week, but received no overtime compensation, despite the hours being documented with Family Dollar.

This is not the retailer’s first court case involving nonpayment of overtime, according to Kelly.

“There were a series of cases in Alabama with the same [nonpayment of overtime] issues as here,” Kelly said. “A number of managers sued for back pay and the courts decided against Family Dollar in Alabama.”

In 2009, that decision was upheld by the United States Supreme Court, Kelly added.

More recently, according to online media accounts , a Connecticut judge last May ruled against Family Dollar Stores of Connecticut by denying a motion for summary judgment asking the judge to dismiss a case brought by store managers that alleges they were denied overtime pay because there are no facts that can support the plaintiff’s claim.

Last September the Charlotte Observer reported Family Dollar has agreed to settle a lawsuit with 1,700 store managers in New York, in which the managers allege the retailer unlawfully failed to pay them overtime.

Dionne’s case initially was filed in Caribou District Court, but then moved to federal court in Bangor at the request of the defendant, according to Kelly.

“Anybody has the right to request to remove a state of Maine case to federal court if there is a ‘diversity of citizenship,’” Kelly said. “In this case [Dionne] is from Aroostook County and Family Dollar is based in North Carolina [and] represented by a Boston law firm.”

Kelly said he has not been given a court date for Dionne’s case, but said the case could be heard as soon as January, if the matter is not first settled out of court.

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