West Virginia Adjutant General Allen E. Tackett
CHARLESTON – A Kanawha County man claims he was discriminated against by West Virginia's Adjutant General because he is being treated for depression and anxiety.
In a lawsuit filed last month in Kanawha Circuit Court, Jamey Little says he was hired as assistant fire chief by the Adjutant General, who is Major General Allen E. Tackett. Little already was a member of the Air Force National Guard when he was named assistant fire chief.
Since 2002, Little says he has received counseling and prescription drugs for depression and anxiety.
On July 20, 2004, he says he took an overdose of prescription drugs and consumed alcoholic beverages. This, the suit says, led to him being hospitalized overnight. The immediate diagnosis was alcohol intoxication with depressive features, the suit says.
In the suit filed by attorney Lonnie C. Simmons of DiTrapano, Barrett & DiPiero PLLC, Little says he was released and evaluated by a psychiatrist who said he should be OK for the flight home and that he should resume his duties with the usual evaluation process. Soon after returning to West Virginia, Little says he required to be evaluated by a psychiatrist at Wright Air Force Base in Ohio.
There, the suit says, he was determined to be fit for military and firefighting duties. Then, he says he began receiving treatment and counseling on a regular basis.
On Aug. 5, 2004, Little says he returned to work only to be told he was being placed on medical suspension and that he no longer could serve as assistant fire chief.
This, the suit claims, effectively meant Tackett fired Little as assistant fire chief.
Little filed a grievance challenging the medical suspension and his removal as assistant fire chief. He won the grievance and was given back pay and had certain benefits reinstated, the suit says.
In an effort to mitigate his damages, the suit says Little then accepted job as building maintenance specialist about Jan. 16, 2005, while he sought reinstatement as assistant fire chief. The suit says he provided medical information showing he was fit to be reinstated and that the defendant's refusal to do so was detrimental to his health.
Still, the suit says, Tackett refused to reinstate him.
Little sues for the wrongful firing, which he claims is in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act. Under that, he claims, he qualifies as a person with a disability. And he says he was fired based on his disability.
He also claims discrimination based on the fact that there was a failure to reasonably accommodate his disability, which again is a violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act.
As a result, he claims he suffered numerous compensatory damages, including past and future lost wages, annoyance and inconvenience, embarrassment, humiliation, emotional distress and expenses, including attorney fees.
Little also seeks a declaratory judgment because the state Legislature amended West Virginia Code on June 2, 2004, to require membership in the West Virginia National Guard to be a firefighter or security guard for the Adjutant General. He asks the court to determine if this violates due process and equal protection principles of the West Virginia Constitution. And if it is constitutional, Little seeks a declaration that he is covered.
Little seeks reinstatement with all salary increases, bonuses and related fringe benefits h would have received. He also seeks punitive damages for the reprehensible, fraudulent, willful, wanton, malicious and in blatant and intentional disregard of his rights.
He seeks a jury trial, and the case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Tod Kaufman.
Tackett was appointed Adjutant General for the West Virginia National Guard on Sept. 11, 1995. As Adjutant General, he provides command guidance to the West Virginia Army and Air National Guard of more than 6,000 citizen soldiers and airmen.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 05-C-2738