Robin Thomas claims every word was true — “under oath, hand to God.”
In October, she wrote a public Google review of her former employer, DeKalb County’s Windemere Roofing. She called it the “worst job ever” and urged people to avoid the business and its owner, who she described, in bold text, as a shady operator and a “LIAR.”
In publishing those words, she unwittingly touched off a battle, how ever small and strange, of libel v. freedom of speech.
Owner John Lewis (not the congressman) sent a letter demanding Thomas take down the review and issue an apology immediately. When that didn’t happen, he filed suit against her for $2.5 million, calling the review malicious and false.
“John Lewis can go to hell,” Thomas told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday. “At the end of the day, I do have the freedom of speech. ... I need to counter-sue for $5 million.”
This battle started with a defection of sorts.
Earlier this year, Thomas lost her job at Certified Roofing and Gutters, also a player in DeKalb’s roofing business, and she got hired at Windemere Roofing. She said Lewis had seen her resume on Indeed.com.
She said Lewis started badmouthing Certified Roofing and Gutters on Day 1 and continued until she quit two and a half weeks later. Thomas said she quit because she didn’t like how Lewis did business.
Thomas sent a complaint to the Georgia Insurance Commissioner’s office about Lewis. Even though the agency doesn’t regulate roofers, an inspector investigated and found no wrongdoing in his handling of insurance matters, said spokesman Glenn Allen.
Lewis “felt she was a plant sent over to try to discredit his business,” Allen said, adding that Lewis said he had fired Thomas.
Lewis alleges in the lawsuit that Thomas posted her review “under the direction and encouragement” of Certified Roofing and Gutters, where Thomas returned to work after leaving Windemere Roofing. Certified Roofing and Gutters is also listed as a defendant, as is owner Antonio Johnson and a woman named Angelyne Brown.
Reached Thursday, Johnson said he had never heard of the Google review.
“Why am I involved?” he said. “I need to sue him because he’s including me and I don’t even know him. I’ve never spoken to this guy.”
What about Brown?
Johnson said Brown was once his accountant. She hasn’t worked for his business in two years, though her name is still listed on public filings as being associated with it. Brown, who couldn’t be reached for comment, also doesn’t know Lewis, according to Johnson.
Lewis deferred comment to his attorney, John C. McManus, who said the review had been a detriment to Lewis’ name and company.
“What’s the price of your reputation?” the lawyer said.
Certified Roofing and Gutters has four stars out of five on its overall Google reviews. Windemere has 3.7, though several of the bad reviews have been met with responses attributed to the owner calling them “imposters.”
Thomas said she hasn’t seen the suit, filed Monday in DeKalb County State Court, but she stands by her review, which was still online Thursday morning.
It disappeared shortly after lunch.
Asked if she deleted it, Thomas said, “Yes, I was instructed to do so.”
Then she said she had to go to help a customer.
Told the post was deleted, McManus said he was happy, but not fully satisfied because Thomas still hadn’t retracted the statement or apologized.
The suit is moving forward, he said.
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