An investigator for a state agency sided with a former manager of a Norway auto repair shop who claims he was fired because he complained that he was underpaid.

Michael W. Record filed a complaint with the Maine Human Rights Commission, saying he was fired for blowing the whistle on the owners of the Grease Lightning auto lube and repair shop in Norway in August 2012.

Barbara Lelli, chief investigator for the agency, wrote in a four-page report that there are reasonable grounds to believe that Record was fired by TNT Deem LLC, then-owner of the Grease Lightning shop, for whistleblower retaliation in exposing the owner’s illegal pay practice. The commission interprets the recommendation of “reasonable grounds” to mean that there is at least an even chance that Record would prevail if he were to pursue his complaint in civil court. 

Record worked as a manager at the shop from February until Aug. 9, 2012. On his last day at work, Record complained to the owner that he had worked 48 hours that week, but had been paid for only 44 hours. He was told that he was an hourly worker who had only worked 40 hours, but had been given four hours of bonus pay, though he was not entitled to overtime pay. After Record challenged the owner, the owner changed Record’s status to “daily salaried” worker, according to the investigator’s report.

The owner didn’t respond to Record’s complaint, Lelli wrote.

The owner suspended Record after he complained. Later that day, he told him “not to bother coming in and that he was done,” the report said.

After Record complained to the Maine Department of Labor, an investigation at that agency found Record hadn’t properly been paid.

Record said he had performed his job to the satisfaction of the shop owners and had been fired only after questioning their pay practices.

The Maine Human Rights Act bars discrimination or retaliation against workers because of previous actions that are protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act, Lelli wrote in her report.

The timing of Record’s challenge of the owner’s pay practice and his firing “establishes the causal link” between the two events, Lelli wrote.

In the same report, Lelli recommended that a complaint filed by Record against Marvindegon-Med34, LLC, the company that took over ownership of the shop more than nine months after he was fired, be dismissed because there were no reasonable grounds to believe the new owners retaliated against Record.

The Maine Human Rights Commission is expected to take up Record’s case at its Monday meeting.

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