Lawsuit Alleges HarborChase of Southlake Fired Sales Director for Refusing to Participate in Illegal Price Fixing

The former Director of Sales of an upscale assisted living facility in Southlake claims she was fired for refusing to violate federal antitrust laws by sharing pricing information with competitors.

UPDATE: The Dallas Morning News wrote about this lawsuit on January 3, 2023. You can see their coverage here (subscription required).

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, Sarah Harris claims that her supervisors at HarborChase of Southlake fired her when she refused to complete her employer’s Competitive Analysis spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet listed the prices, availability, floor plans, and other data about HarborChase’s competitors. As part of the exercise, the lawsuit alleges that Harris was required to “set a meeting with her counterpart at the competing senior living community, and exchange Defendants’ and the competitor’s pricing information.”

On Sept. 15, 2021, Harris emailed her supervisor, Executive Director Veronica Cobb, and said she would not participate in updating the spreadsheet:

I do not participate in Competitive Analysis. It is price fixing, breaks anti-trust federal laws and is part of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act which states it is a felony to discuss pricing with your competitors. Not only can the company be prosecuted but also the individual involved in the conversations.

Rather than address Harris’s concerns, the lawsuit says, “Cobb stated that she would accept Harris’s resignation. When Harris asked if Cobb would fire her if she did not resign, Cobb stated that she would indeed do so. Cobb then directed Harris to immediately gather her belongings and escorted Harris off the premises.”

Firing Harris was a retaliatory termination in violation of the whistleblower provision of the Criminal Antitrust Anti-Retaliation Act of 2019, says Harris’s attorney, Jennifer Spencer, of Dallas’ Jackson Spencer Law.

“Rather than do the right thing — which would have been to address Harris’s concerns and change the way they do business — HarborChase chose to kill the messenger,” Spencer says. “My client saw what was obvious to everyone in the room: that HarborChase and its competitors were engaging in price-fixing and taking advantage of senior citizens. But instead of being rewarded for standing up for what was right, she was shown the door.”

Harris seeks unspecified damages consisting of past and future lost wages, compensation for past and future emotional distress, pre- and post-judgment interest, and litigation expenses. The lawsuit is Sarah Harris v. Harbor Southlake Management, LLC, dba HarborChase Southlake, et al., No. 4:22-cv-00854-P.