A Portland marketing firm is being sued by a former employee who claims she was drugged at a company holiday party and then fired after raising concerns with human resources.
In July, Diana Salas sued TrueLine Publishing under state and federal law for allegedly dismissing her soon after she asked for support while dealing with the stress of having had her drink spiked at a party two years ago.
A spokeswoman for the company said it “categorically denies” her claims.
In December 2016, Salas had been working for TrueLine for about a year when she went to the company’s “closed” holiday party, she claims in a complaint filed in Cumberland County court. While there, Salas says that “one or more” of her drinks were “laced with a drug.”
In the court complaint, Salas notes that TrueLine president and CEO Hajmil Carr encouraged her to take shots at the party but does not accuse him of drugging her.
Nor did she identify Carr “or any specific person” as having spiked her drink when, two days later, she told him and a TrueLine human resources manager about it, according to the suit that was moved to federal court in Portland Tuesday.
“TrueLine categorically denies Diana Salas’ allegations against TrueLine, its employees and the staff of” the venue where the holiday party was held, Erica Berry, the company’s director of public relations, said in a written statement.
TrueLine is a 30-person marketing and consulting firm run out of offices on Congress Street. It’s been been repeatedly named to Maine State Council of the Society for Human Resources Management’s list of “Best Places to Work in Maine.”
Salas says she took a drug test the day after the party and provided its results to the Portland Police Department when she reported the incident. It showed she’d been drugged, according to her lawyer, Jeffrey Bennett of South Portland.
Portland police investigated Salas’ claims and no one was charged with a crime, acting Chief Vernon Malloch said Wednesday, adding that the case is now closed.
Berry said that TrueLine “fully cooperated” with the investigation and that “police found no evidence to support [Salas’] allegations.”
“The police couldn’t determine who drugged her,” Bennett said. “But they certainly had sufficient evidence from the drug testing kit that someone slipped something in her drink.”
Because of the alleged drugging, Salas says she was diagnosed with acute and post-traumatic stress disorders. She informed Carr and the human resources manager of this and asked to be allowed to work alone rather than in a group while she recovered, the suit states.
In early January, the human resources manager allegedly told Salas she was being fired. “It appears you are unhappy with your job and lacking collaborating [sic] with the rest of the design team,” the manager allegedly said, adding that the termination was not over Salas’ work.
“They viewed her as a problem at that point and wanted to get rid of her as a result,” Bennett said. “That’s the lawsuit. That violates Maine law.”
Berry declined to comment further on the Salas’ claims citing “respect for [her] confidential personnel and sensitive medical information.”
Salas’ six-count lawsuit brings claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as state whistleblower and human rights laws. She accuses TrueLine of failure to accommodate a disability, wrongful firing and retaliation, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional harm.
She is requesting a jury trial and seeking damages for lost pay and benefits, medical costs and emotional harm. Before filing her case, Salas brought a complaint to the Maine Human Rights Commission, which sent her a “right to sue” letter in April.
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