Former IOW employee suing County, supervisor

Published 10:46 am Friday, February 6, 2015

Isle of Wight County and Board of Supervisors member Delores “Dee Dee” Darden are named in a $2.85 million lawsuit, which has been made by Lisa Perry, the former Isle of Wight Economic Development director.

In the suit, Perry first states she was wrongfully terminated by the County in violation of protection under the Family Leave Medical Act. Around May 2, 2014, Perry was in accident that injured her shoulder and adversely affected her health. This required her to take FMLA leave for treatment and recuperation, a situation that she says the County was aware of.

Perry states that she “missed significant time from work, but less than her FMLA allotment and leave available pursuant to Isle of Wight’s policy and the FMLA.”

She adds that in July the County fired her before she returned on an agreed-upon date, “claiming she failed to return to work at the designated time.”

This action she calls intentional and deliberate retaliation for taking the FMLA leave.

But when The Tidewater News learned on Aug. 6 that Perry was no longer director, County spokesman Don Robertson said in two emails that she left on her own accord.

First, “Ms. Perry is no longer employed with the County, effective August 1st. It was a voluntary resignation. I don’t have any information regarding her future plans.”

Second, “Department heads are expected to provide 30 days’ notice. That does not always occur. I don’t have a statement from Ms. Perry as to why she voluntarily resigned.”

Asked for confirmation of the suit, Robertson said, “That is what is being reported; however, the County has not been served.”

The plaintiff, who served as director for over 6-1/2 years, also takes issue with comments that Darden made to the newspaper at the time. Specifically:

“Perry was due back to work last Friday, but she didn’t show up or let anyone know why.”

“Part of the leave agreement was that not returning to work as agreed meant that the job would not be held for her.”

“She did an adequate job.”

These remarks Perry calls defamatory and false and adds that they were made by the supervisor “willfully and with actual malice.”

The comments that the plaintiff highlights come from the article that was published both online (Aug. 6) and in print (Aug. 8).

The following is all that featured Darden and Perry in that story:

Supervisor Delores “Dee Dee” Darden of the Windsor district was also asked for information and comment on the matter.

Darden said on the phone that Perry had been out on extended leave based on the Family and Medical Leave Act. She recalled that Perry had hurt her shoulder earlier this year.

However, Darden added, Perry was due back to work last Friday, but she didn’t show up or let anyone know why.

Part of the leave agreement was that not returning to work as agreed meant that the job would not be held for her.

“This was a clause that would apply to anybody,” said Darden.

“I think Lisa was a valuable employee,” she continued. “She helped bring Green Mountain Coffee here and other things. She did an adequate job. I wish her well.”

The plaintiff says that Darden’s actions and words have caused her “loss of past income, loss of future income, loss of benefits as well as loss of reputation, humiliation, pain, suffering, anxiety and loss of quality of life.”

Ultimately, Perry is asking she be reinstated and that the County pay restitution for lost wages and benefits, as well as attorney fees and related costs. From Darden, she’s demanding the $2.85 million.

“I have no comment at this time,” Darden said when contacted by the newspaper.

Perry is requesting a jury trial.