MARTINSBURG – A man who alleged one of his former supervisors sometimes threw hammers in the direction of employees is facing a motion for summary judgment filed by the defendants in his lawsuit.
Robert W. Elliott, Sr. was a 27-year veteran of the Continental Brick Company, a brick-making business in Martinsburg, before being fired in 2011. Elliott claims his firing was in retaliation for complaints he made in April 2010 about Donald Sult, the company’s vice president of operations.
Elliott wrote in his complaint, filed in May 2011 in Berkeley County Circuit Court, that he had been with the company since its inception in 1984. In April 2010, he met with C. Lynch Christian, the company’s president, to report what he said was violent and hostile conduct on the part of Sult.
“Such conduct included… the throwing of hammers on several occasions (sometimes in the direction of an employee with whom Defendant Sult appeared to be angry), smashing a brick immediately in front of the face of one employee and frequently hitting walls and other objects within the workplace,” the complaint says.
Christian told Elliott there was no issue that needed addressing, the suit says. In January 2011, Continental Brick issued several temporary layoffs, it adds.
Elliott, though, was fired. He was told he was fired because he possessed another business to rely on and not the meeting several months earlier, he claims.
Elliott is the president of Berkeley Theatres in Martinsburg.
“(T)he termination of the plaintiff was executed as an effort to punish the plaintiff for lodging complaints regarding an illegal workplace setting,” Elliott claims.
He also alleges his termination was intended to intimidate other employees out of registering complaints.
Attorneys for the defendants don’t agree, however.
A. Neal Barkus of Steptoe & Johnson wrote in a summary judgment motion filed in December that Elliott did not engaged in protected activity under the West Virginia Human Rights Act.
“(H)e only made complaints to management about matters of workplace civility, not any prohibited discriminatory acts,” the motion says.
It adds that too much time passed between then April 2010 meeting and the February 2011 termination for it to be considered retaliatory.
The defendants’ conduct was simply not outrageous enough for Elliott to sustain a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the motion says.
Elliott is represented Christopher Luttrell of Luttrell & Prezioso in Martinsburg.
The case was originally assigned to Judge Christopher Wilkes, who recused himself. He cited “numerous and ongoing social interactions with the plaintiff and in such has heard certain facts of the case.”
The case was then assigned to Judge Gina Groh, who became a federal judge. Judge John Yoder now presides over it.
From the West Virginia Record: Reach John O’Brien at firstname.lastname@example.org.