A former bartender at a Portland International Jetport restaurant has filed a lawsuit alleging she was retaliated against for requiring one week’s notice of any upcoming shifts because she takes care of her elderly mother.

Tonya Joy, 49, lives in Gorham with her 74-year-old mother, who has multiple sclerosis and requires a wheelchair for mobility.

According to the lawsuit, Joy began working at the Linda Bean’s Maine Lobster Café in the jetport in January 2019. HMS Host Corp. operates Linda Bean’s along with hundreds of chain restaurants around the world in airports, hotels and highway rest stops, including those along the Maine Turnpike. The company’s headquarters are in Bethesda, Maryland.

A managerial change nine months into her job led to a change in the posting of weekly schedules from one week in advance to sometimes fewer than 24 hours, according to the lawsuit. In October 2019, Joy complained to management about the refusal to adhere to company policy by posting the schedule a week ahead of time, explaining that she is the primary caregiver for her mother and had to arrange for alternative care during the times Joy tended bar.

When the scheduling problem persisted, Joy reported the issue to her company’s human resources department. Subsequently, her manager began cutting back on her scheduled shifts. Joy further alleges that after a co-worker brought a work-related issue to the attention of human resources, her manager told the co-worker, “Just because there’s one bad apple in the bunch doesn’t mean they all have to be bad apples.”

According to the lawsuit, the manager, identified as Anthony Zappazzio, “glared at Ms. Joy as he made the ‘bad apple’ statement.”

Eventually, Joy’s shifts completely disappeared from the schedule without any notice, the lawsuit says. Her final scheduled day of work was Dec. 28. She said she asked to work at other HMS Host venues after reiterating her availability for any day except Sunday, given a week’s notice, but the company did not grant that request.

“Basically, (Zappazzio) told her she was not getting back on the schedule because she was asserting her rights, which is a clear violation of the statute,” said Joy’s attorney, Danielle Quinlan, referring to Maine’s Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows for qualifying leave to be taken on an intermittent basis rather than in one block.

Quinlan and her Kennebunk-based law partner Laura White declined to make Joy available for questions about her experience. Neither of the Portland attorneys representing HMS Host, Melinda Caterine or Timothy Powell of Littler Mendelson, responded to a request for comment on Joy’s allegations.

Quinlan and White originally filed the suit in Cumberland County Superior Court in late August. Late last week, Caterine and Powell requested the action be transferred to federal district court. They have until Friday to formally respond to Joy’s complaint, according to her attorneys, who are seeking a jury trial.

On March 20, HMS Host laid off or furloughed 240 employees from its turnpike locations throughout Maine and followed up a day later with 60 layoffs from its jetport location. In early summer, many of those employees were asked back by HMS Host management, but Joy was not.

When her former manager called to ask about her work badge, Joy asked about the possibility of future shifts. According to the lawsuit, Zappazzio told her, “Well, I don’t know, I heard you were suing us.”

On Aug. 17, HMS Host furloughed or laid off 64 employees from its jetport location.

Joy is seeking lost wages, attorneys’ fees and punitive damages.

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