October 15, 2018
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Maine firm denies retaliation in firing worker allegedly drugged at company party

Seth Koenig | BDN
Seth Koenig | BDN
The Edward T. Gignoux U.S. Courthouse building in Portland as seen in this March 20, 2018, BDN file photo.

A Portland marketing firm is asking a federal court to dismiss a lawsuit in which a former employee claims to have been drugged at a company party and fired after asking for accommodations as she recovered.

In a Tuesday court filing, TrueLine Publishing broadly denied Diana Salas’ charges that the company broke state and federal law in dismissing her, while acknowledging some of the factual claims made in her court complaint.

In July, Salas sued the 30-person marketing and consulting firm, claiming that she’d been drugged at a December 2016 holiday party and that she was fired the next month after she asked for support while dealing with the stress of the incident.

Salas claims to have blacked out at the party, took a drug test the next day, and reported what she believes to have been a spiked drink to local police and her superiors at TrueLine. She did not, however, accuse any specific person of drugging her, and a police investigation into the incident did not result in any criminal charges.

TrueLine acknowledges the broad strokes of these claims and that Salas was fired in January 2016, after she raised concerns over her mental health with CEO Hajmil Carr and a human resources manager.

[Woman sues Maine marketing firm after she was allegedly drugged at party]

But the company challenges that there was anything illegal or discriminatory in the dismissal. It notes that Salas seemed “unhappy with her job duties” and was “an employee at will” who could be fired without cause.

TrueLine’s lawyer further states that Carr encouraged Salas to take time off or participate in a program called the Hoffman Process, which helps people “transform counterproductive beliefs, perceptions, and emotional patterns that are limiting their lives,” according to its website.

In her suit, Salas said she was diagnosed with acute and post-traumatic stress disorders after the holiday party. She claims her firing violated the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as state whistleblower and human rights laws, and is seeking damages for lost pay and benefits, medical costs, and emotional harm.

TrueLine argued that its former employee is not entitled to damages or a trial because there were “legitimate, non-discriminatory and non-retaliatory reasons” for her firing and that the accommodations she was requesting “would not have been reasonable and would have created an undue hardship.”

Salas’ lawyer, Jeffrey Bennett of South Portland, said that “we stand by our complaint.” Before she was fired, Salas “was a valued employee of TrueLine only receiving praise and never being subjected to any form of counseling, warning or discipline,” he said.

A TrueLine spokeswoman declined to comment.

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