WHISTLEBLOWER VERDICT AGAINST EYE DOCTOR
A St. Louis county jury recently awarded a St. Louis woman $95,000 in punitive damages in a whistleblower trial Michelle Fleshner, 35, had sued Pepose Vision Institute, claiming that she was terminated by Dr. Jay Pepose because she had coooperated with a U.S. Department of Labor investigation of Pepose Vision Institute regarding wage and overtime practices. Ms. Fleshner talked to investigators on May 21, 2003. She was fired two days later. The defendant claimed Fleshner’s discharge was coincidental and that a plan had been in place for months to reduce staff.
Ms. Fleshner also claimed at trial that Pepose even managed to get her fired from a subsequent job with different eye doctors. Pepose insisted he was simply enforcing a non-compete contract that Fleshner had signed with him.
Earlier the jury had awarded Fleshner $30,000 in compensatory damages. The results of the Labor Department investigation were not revealed at the trial.