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Whistleblower in Marriott case wins suit

Whistleblower in Marriott case wins suit

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GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Marriott Ownership Resorts Inc. could have to pay as much as $1.2 million to a former employee whose whistleblower lawsuit concluded Tuesday.

Dorothy Phillips was fired from her job selling timeshares out of Marriott's Fairway Villas at Seaview in Galloway Township out of retaliation for reporting an illegal scheme among her former-co-workers, according to the complaint filed in 2005.

A jury awarded Phillips $300,000 in punitive damages; $10,000 under the Conscientious Employee Protection, or "Whistleblower," Act; $91,000 for emotional distress; and $3,599 in lost wages.

That last amount could have been greater, but was capped because Phillips found a better job quickly at a Prudential Fox Roach office in Ocean City. She still works there, Barbone said.

Marriott also must pay between $400,000 and $800,000 in attorney fees. The exact award will depend on what Atlantic County Superior Court Judge William Nugent decides, Barbone said.

The duration of the case is typical for one involving an international corporation like Marriott, according to Phillips' attorney Louis Barbone of Jacobs & Barbone.

"It was a rather large and complex case," Barbone said. "There probably were 15 witnesses deposed, everybody from the vice-president to sales executives. The issues involved spanned about a one-month period of time and involved a lot of people and a lot of evidence."

Marriott hired Phillips in 2001. Three years later, she transferred to a spot left vacant by sales executive Marty Kamison. The lawsuit claims that shortly after Phillips started her new role, Kamison contacted her to ask she share a portion of her commission with him. Kamison and Stacy Zimmerman, another sales executive, already had an agreement that funneled 5 percent of Zimmerman's commission to Kamison, according to the lawsuit.

Phillips refused and reported the situation to her supervisor Stephanie Sobeck. At the time, Sobeck acknowledged that Kamison and Zimmerman's behavior was illegal and promised to take action, according to the lawsuit.

That never happened, so Phillips went up the ladder to regional vice-president Robert DeRose. Soon after, she went away for five days. Meanwhile, Kamison falsified a letter on her behalf that made it appear she misrepresented the company and lost $350,000 worth of business, according to the suit.

The corporation argued that was the reason DeRose and Sobeck fired Phillips in March 2005, Barbone said.

"They were lying. The true reason was to silence her and not (damage) what they think is the great reputation of Marriott," Barbone said.

Sobeck, DeRose and Zimmerman still work for Marriott at its offices in Orlando, Fla., he said.

Attorney Veronica Saltz represented Marriott in the matter. She deferred to corporate spokesman Ed Kinney, who did not return calls or e-mails placed late Tuesday for comment or about whether Marriott would appeal.

According to court documents, the jury found that Marriott's firing of Phillips was retaliatory and motivated by her reporting Zimmerman's involvement with Kamison.

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