TRENTON — The former CEO of Lobster 207 has asked a judge to vacate a $1 million arbitration award to his former employer, arguing that he was not paid his proper wages by the company before his firing and the business did not maintain a complete personnel file for him showing any history of the allegations against him in a federal court.
In August, an arbitrator found that Warren Pettegrow broke his contract with Lobster 207, a union-owned fishing cooperative based in Trenton, and said it was clear that he was competing with his employer to benefit his family’s lobster pound.
Lobster 207 bought the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound’s wholesale business in 2017 from the Pettegrow family and made Pettegrow its CEO. As part of the deal, the family could continue to run the restaurant just before the bridge to Mount Desert Island but signed a noncompetition agreement saying they wouldn’t participate in the wholesale business anymore. The restaurant could operate a lobster buying station for the restaurant itself, but any unused lobsters had to be sold to Lobster 207.
In 2019, Lobster 207 filed a lawsuit against the Pettegrows, claiming that the family had embezzled and cheated them out of money by continuing to operate a wholesale business on the side.
Pettegrow countered that Lobster 207 used the family as a scapegoat for the co-op because business was going poorly. Pettegrow had filed for arbitration over his firing and the arbitrator found that he was competing with his employer to benefit the family business, according to a copy of the decision.
Earlier this month, Pettegrow filed a request to vacate that decision, saying he was not compensated for his work and his personnel file had no documentation of his alleged competition. Pettegrow said he was only paid a fraction of what he was owed for the more than 22 million pounds of lobster he purchased for the company.
“The Arbitrator’s decision credited Warren with nothing,” Pettegrow’s attorney wrote in the recent filing. “Despite undisputed performance, including as recognized in the (arbitration award) that Warren met the volume compensation formula of 5 cents per pound for every lobster purchased by Lobster 207, the Arbitrator awarded Warren exactly zero dollars.”
The award ignores Pettegrow’s owed backpay and violated the state’s wage laws and personnel records, he claimed.
Lobster 207 denied it owed Pettegrow money, saying that the two parties had an agreement that he wouldn’t get compensation for the volume of lobsters he sold until Lobster 207 was cash-flow positive. Until then, he’d only receive a weekly salary.
The company noted that Pettegrow was the one who requested arbitration in addition to the ongoing racketeering case and claimed he boasted about his perceived success in that arena.
“But now that the Arbitrator has issued an award to Lobster 207 … Warren’s tune has changed and he now complains that the Arbitrator ‘manifestly disregarded’ Maine’s wage laws,” the company wrote in its opposition filing.
Lobster 207 has asked the judge to confirm the arbitration award. The lawsuit is ongoing.