Saying they were forced to work under vastly different – and inferior – terms by new management, five current and former employees of the Cross Insurance Arena have filed a class action lawsuit against their former employer, the Cumberland County Recreation District.

The employees, including the former marketing director, who logged 27 years with the arena, say they are owed severance after all arena employees were fired when new management took over arena operations in 2015, even though some of the employees were subsequently rehired.

Their attorneys said at least 120 past and present employees at the arena, formerly the Cumberland County Civic Center, might be eligible to participate in the class action if it is certified.

“There may well be quite a bit more,” said attorney Roberta de Araujo of the Augusta law firm Johnson, Webbert & Young.

The Cumberland County Recreation District turned arena operations over to Global Spectrum – now known as Spectra, a Philadelphia-based division of Comcast – in March 2015.

Matt Tarasevich, the Bernstein Shurr attorney who represents the Cumberland County Recreation District, said in an email that the district had received the complaint, is reviewing the claims and “will respond in due course.”

It’s not possible to put a dollar value on the suit at this point, de Araujo said. State severance pay law requires that any employee who had worked for the arena for at least three years be paid severance equal to one week’s pay for every year of employment at the time they were terminated.

Employees received a termination letter from the Cumberland County Recreation District (now the Cross Insurance Arena) stating “It is our understanding that Global intends to offer you employment at the Arena, effective March 9, 2015 at 12:00 a.m., in the same position and at the same rate of pay as you had with CIA.” The letter also said Global “intends to offer similar benefits.”

But the employees named in the suit, including former marketing director Roberta Wright and concessions manager Matt Drivas, say they were forced to apply for new jobs with Spectra, that not all of the employees were rehired and that the new terms of employment were “substantially inferior terms.”

Those terms included fewer paid holidays (the number dropped from 13 to 8), working “significantly” more hours without additional compensation and not being allowed to take comp time for excess hours worked. The complaint also alleges that employees were forced to pay “considerably more” for health insurance.

Morever, under their previous employment agreement, employees said they could only be terminated for just cause and could sue if they did not agree there was cause. The lawsuit alleges that Spectra – as long as it doesn’t discriminate unlawfully, can fire employees for good reason, bad reason or no reason at all.

Wright has retired and Drivas, who says he was told he had to choose between the civic center and a similar job he held with the Portland Sea Dogs, left the civic center in favor of the baseball team. “The loss of my job with the Center cost me the majority of my annual income and retirement,” Drivas said in a news release. The other three plaintiffs, James Leo, Robert Payne Jr. and Gregory Moyes, still work for the arena.

Attorneys said they couldn’t put a dollar value on the suit because no class action has yet been established.

There are some union employees at the civic center, mostly stagehands, according to attorney Jeff Young. But those represented in this suit, who include the three employees still working for the Cross arena in the concessions and operations area, are not union members.

Young said his firm has been in negotiations with the Cumberland County Recreation District for a year. “Unfortunately we were never able to resolve the dispute,” Young said. “So they knew this was coming.”

Correction: This story was updated Oct. 6 to correct the spelling of Roberta de Araujo’s last name.


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