CHARLESTON – A Kanawha County woman is suing over claims she was the victim of race discrimination in the workplace.
Lois Kent filed a lawsuit Nov. 6 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Edgewood Summit Inc. doing business as The Arthur B. Hodges Center at Edgewood Summit, citing race discrimination.
According to the complaint, in February Kent was working as a certified nursing assistant for the defendant, caring for patients with Alzheimer's or dementia in the memory-care unit, when she was subjected to inappropriate comments made by black coworkers about her race and age. Kent says she and another coworker, Brenda Hughes, reported the harassment to their supervisor, after which Hughes received a transfer to another floor, but Kent did not and continued to endure the harassment from coworkers, some of whom were related to each other.
Kent says several coworkers remarked on how "easy" it would be to cause Kent to lose her certified nursing assistant license and threatened to do so, and she continued to report the inappropriate behavior to supervisors, who either did nothing or told her they did not have the time to deal with it.
The complaint states there was a May 17 "meeting" for all the nursing assistants, where the administrators refused to discuss any concerns but played a clip from the movie "Remember the Titans" wherein a group of white and black students cooperate as a team. Kent says this was the defendant's only attempt to resolve matters.
The suit states she applied for a transfer to another position, which she learned she had not received when she showed up to work June 26 and a black coworker teased her for not getting the transfer. According to the lawsuit, the position was given to a younger black employee, and due to the hostile work environment, Kent was forced to resign her position, constituting constructive discharge.
According to the lawsuit, an administrator later admitted he did not conduct an investigation into Kent's allegations because only written reports of harassment required such, although the employee handbook required only that an employee report the harassment to his or her supervisor.
The defendant is accused of constructive discharge resulting from defendant's failure to remedy discriminatory and hostile work conditions, discrimination based on race, age discrimination, negligent infliction of emotional distress, outrage and hostile work environment in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act.
Kent seeks general, compensatory and punitive damages, including lost wages and benefits, travel and moving expenses for seeking other employment, reimbursement of retirement savings used to meet living expenses, attorney fees, interest and costs.
She is represented by attorneys Hoyt Glazer, Ben Sheridan and Mitchell L. Klein of Klein, Sheridan and Glazer in Huntington. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge James C. Stucky.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 14-C-1985