WILMINGTON — The Hermitage Club is seeking summary judgment for a lawsuit filed by a former employee who claimed she was wrongfully discharged after raising concerns about the well-being of horses on the company's hotel property and a fellow employee's termination.
Effie Mayhew "admits that her comments were based on her own personal moral beliefs rather than any professional standards and were also motivated by her desire for a promotion," attorneys for the Hermitage Club stated in a motion for summary judgment in the United States District Court for the District of Vermont. Summary judgment could keep the case from having to go to trial.
"The Hermitage Club had a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for terminating (Mayhew's) employment. In August 2014, her proposals (involving an equestrian center) and requests progressed to threats, demands and ultimatums," the document stated. "Rather than working corroboratively and deferentially with her supervisors, she went over their heads and sent a very unprofessional e-mail to the president of the company, again reiterating her refusal to accept any opinion but her own."
The company also said Mayhew's termination had nothing to do with her "alleged statements regarding military leave" for another employee, in which Mayhew had mentioned the employee could not be fired if they were actively in service, but her insubordination.
Mayhew's claims of working overtime without being compensated were dismissed by the Hermitage Club. The company said it offered Mayhew $3,000 for the alleged 100 hours of overtime but got rejected in July.
The company said it was Mayhew's own desire for promotion, not a "promise," that motivated her to perform those alleged additional hours. And Mayhew was an at-will employee not under any employment contract with the Hermitage Club, meaning Mayhew "may be discharged at any time with or without cause."
"Nobody at the Hermitage Club disagreed with (Mayhew) that the horses needed more attention," the motion stated. "The Hermitage Club paid a local landscaping company to handle some of (Mayhew's) gardening responsibilities in July and August 2014. The Hermitage Club also paid for the horses to be boarded off site at Brookside Stables from late July 2014 until late August 2014 so that (Mayhew) could take driving lessons, which the Club also paid for."
The company claims Mayhew requested it create a "full-time year-round equine manager position" for Mayhew to fill. Notes from a manager regarding Mayhew's business plan caused Mayhew to express displeasure over their questioning over the amount of hours "she felt she needed to work with the horses."
Mayhew admitted managers never asked her to be part of planning an equine center although some people who were may have asked her for input, according to the Hermitage Club's motion. Her time spent researching while on the job was seen by the company as neglecting her normal gardening duties.
The company claims Mayhew had "a heated and disrespectful argument" with another member of management when Mayhew disagreed with a decision to take down a fence Mayhew put up in the horses' pasture area.
"In her opinion, the horses would be exposed to potentially harmful plants without the fence there to keep them out of the wooded pasture area," the motion stated. "After this argument, (Mayhew) put the fence back up where she wanted it."
Mayhew stated nobody at the company was "seeing the BIG picture with (the horses) and the importance of their care and well-being" in an e-mail to Hermitage Club President Jim Barnes, according to the motion.
An e-mail from a Windham County Humane Society representative said concerns regarding the plants were understood but the grazing turnout area was "more than adequate" and the horses were not malnourished. The animals' safety was not considered to be in harm.
A comparison to another court case involving Cedar Hill Health Care Corporation in 2008 was cited in the Hermitage Club's motion, saying the Cedar Hill employee's termination was caused by insubordination rather than because the employee engaged in alleged whistle-blowing activities and the employee disregarded management hierarchy because the employee believed they knew best.
Mayhew filed a lawsuit in 2007 against local website iBrattleboro, for libel based on a comment submitted by David Dunn, the former executive director of Rescue Inc., an emergency medical services organization where Mayhew works as a volunteer. Dunn alleged in his post that Mayhew was conducting an "affair" with a "married member of the Rescue, Inc. board of trustees" indicating that this behavior was happening during "on call" hours at the agency.
iBrattleboro founders, Chris Grotke and Lise LePage, were eventually dismissed from the lawsuit, as was Dunn.