Martina McBride and her husband have been found liable in a lawsuit filed by a former employee, who accused the couple of mistreatment.
Richard Hanson, who managed operations at the pair’s Nashville, Tennessee recording space, Blackbird Studio, claimed the McBrides turned on him after he filed a complaint alleging they took advantage of unpaid interns.
He alleged the couple ignored him when he voiced his concerns and John McBride fired him an hour after he revealed he had filed an official complaint with state lawmakers. Hanson subsequently sued under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Tennessee Public Protection Act, claiming he was fired for making his complaint.
On 7 February (20), a Nashville jury found the McBrides and Blackbird liable of retaliation against Hanson and awarded him $100,000 (£77,000) in compensatory damages, $59,000 (£45,000) in back pay and $59,000 in liquidated damages.
“When he observed the exploitation of unpaid interns and other employees, Mr. Hanson refused to remain silent and consequently was wrongly terminated,” Hanson’s attorney, Brian Winfrey, says in a press release. “We believe the jury’s verdict was fair, and are pleased that they recognized the impact the defendants’ retaliation had on Mr. Hanson’s life.”
In his suit Hanson claimed interns were asked to pick up groceries and clean bathrooms, while one unpaid employee was dispatched to the couple’s home with a gun to check for a possible intruder.
“It appeared that the primary beneficiaries of the internship program were (the McBrides) rather than the unpaid interns,” Hanson stated in his lawsuit.
Martina and John McBride have yet to comment on the verdict.