CHARLESTON – A lawsuit by a former employee of a Charleston law firm alleging one of the firm’s attorneys sexually harassed her has been settled.
Kylan Wilson filed her lawsuit earlier this year in Kanawha Circuit Court against M. Andrew Brison and Anspach Meeks Ellenberger LLP, also known as Anspach Law. The sides settled the suit Friday. Terms were not disclosed.
In her complaint, the 22-year-old Dunbar resident said she worked for Anspach Law from December 2013 through Oct. 21, 2014, and that Brison was her direct supervisor. During her employment there, Wilson said Brison subjected her to “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and her and other co-workers to verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” that interfered with their work and “created an intimidating, hostile and offensive working environment.”
Wilson also claimed her termination from the firm was because she rebuffed Brison’s sexual advances and because she complaint of the sexual harassment to officials with the firm, which she said knew of his conduct through investigation of incidents.
Earlier this month, Anspach Law said in court documents that Wilson was fired because of poor performance. In another court document, Brison said he and Wilson were in a voluntary personal relationship and his actions were not unwanted.
Depositions originally were scheduled to take place June 29.
In her original complaint, Wilson said Brison sent her a series of “unwelcome, inappropriate and sexually oriented text messages.”
In those messages, according to the complaint, Brison requested to “come over and cuddle with” Wilson, referred to “stalking” her,” told her she was “sexy” and that she made it “hard for him to act appropriately in the office.” He also allegedly wrote that he would kiss her the next time she came into his office, that was “obsessed” with her, that he would “love to curl your toes” and that “we can come back into the office after hours. He also made reference to raising her children if something happened to her spouse.
Also, Wilson claimed Brison posted messages on Facebook intended to threaten her. He later claimed his Facebook account was hacked, then later said he posted the messages but didn’t intend them to be directed specifically at Wilson.
“Brison told the plaintiff repeatedly her employment status was in danger of being terminated by defendant Anspach Law in an attempt to gain sexual favors,” the complaint stated.
She said Brison also kissed her hand, rubbed his fingers through her hair and rubbed her shoulders. She said he also said he told her they needed to meet outside the office for work business, constantly asked her to go get drinks with him and told her she was going to be fired. She said he also accessed her cell phone without her permission.
Wilson said she reported Brison’s behavior to Anspach Law’s chief operating officer, who told her Brison “was not dangerous.” The firm told Wilson not to come to work – without pay – while it investigated her claims. That later was changed to time off with pay, she states.
“During alleged ‘investigation,’ defendant Anspach Law’s chief operating office told witnesses they would be disciplined if the sexual harassment alleged by plaintiff had occurred and the employee witnesses did not report it prior,” Wilson’s complaint stated. “Defendant Anspach Law insisted its employee witnesses should not discuss this with anyone, and that plaintiff seemed to be ‘lying,’ all in an attempt to cover-up the sexual harassment rather than actually take affirmative action to punish the sexual harassment.”
She said the firm knew other female secretaries refused to work for Brison.
Still, Wilson claimed she was wrongfully terminated, a violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act. She said she also was a victim of unlawful retaliation and gender discrimination.
She said the firm tried to get her to sign a “Confidential Separation Agreement and General Release” for a payment of $3,466.67, but she refused. She said she also won an unemployment insurance claim with Workforce West Virginia against the firm, saying she was not guilty of any actions causing her to be terminated.
She claimed she has suffered emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation and other damages. She sought compensation for those damages as well as back pay, front pay, loss of benefits, damage to her reputation, annoyance, inconvenience, court costs and attorneys fees. She also sought punitive damages because of the malicious and intention conduct of the defendants.
Wilson also sought to have the court order the defendants to not influence and/or intimidate witnesses in the case.
She was represented by Charleston attorney John Einreinhofer and Bernie Layne III of Mani, Ellis & Layne PLLC.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 15-C-698