HUNTINGTON - A former assistant vice president of academic affairs is suing Marshall University for forcing her to take a lower position that reduced her salary as a result of a disability.

Barbara Tarter filed the suit Feb. 21 in Cabell Circuit Court, seeking to be reinstated to her previous position and granted compensation. The suit names Sarah Denman, the provost of Marshall, along with the Board of Governors as defendants.

The complaint originally was filed in December in Kanawha Circuit Court, but it was dismissed there before being refiled in Cabell County.

Tarter was hired by Marshall on Jan. 1, 2001 as the Assistant Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Enrollment Management. The suit says she performed her duties so well that on Nov. 8, 2004, Tarter was awarded tenure and the faculty rank of associate professor.

Then, in late November she began to suffer from a medical condition and was hospitalized. She was diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and informed the school about her condition.

In August of 2005, Tarter claims she asked Denman to provide reasonable accommodations, based on her disability, and that Denman refused.

The suit states that in September of 2004 Tarter's physician wrote a letter to Denman, explaining her disability and the need to reasonable accommodations, but Denman did not respond.

In October 2005, Tarter was informed her annual raise was being reduced and complained to David Harris in Human Resources. He suggested she put her complaints in writing, which she did, outlining her raise reduction, her job performance and accomplishments and impediments to increasing enrollment that she faced, and the stress of her position and workload.

The suit states that on Nov. 15, 2005, Denman wrote a letter to Tarter, stating she would remove several units from Tarter's supervision, which ultimately made Tarter's job more stressful.

In January 2006, the Director of Admissions resigned and Tarter was assigned those duties as well, with no increase in pay. When she mentioned this to Denman, the suit says Denman suggested Tarter concentrate on Admissions, even though her job was Dean of Enrollment.

Tarter again contacts Human Resources, but Marshall took no response, the suit says.

"In fact, the administration at Marshall continued to undermine (Tarter's) efforts to be successful in her position," the suit says.

In February 2006, Tammy Johnston was appointed as interim Director of Admissions, and received additional compensation for taking on additional duties, the suit says. Tarter claims she was denied additional pay for the duties she was given.

On May 8, 2006, Tarter went to Human Resources again and told Harris she felt like she was being "set up to fail in her position," the suit says. Two days later Tarter, Harris and Denman all met and Tarter was told she could either resign her administrative position and retain her faculty status or be fired.

"(Tarter) decided that she had no choice other than to resign and take the faculty position, which resulted in a significant salary reduction," the complaint states.

The suit says other male faculty have been moved from administrative to faculty positions and had retained their previous salary, however, Tarter's salary was reduced by about one-half.

Tarter has lost funds and suffered out-of-pocket losses, but does not seek recovery from state funds, rather damages from the state's applicable liability insurance policy.

The suit claims Denman violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act and Tarter seeks the court to demand an on-going training program for Marshall employees on the subject of disability discrimination in the workplace.

Tarter, through her attorney Kristina Thomas Whiteaker, also seeks back pay and benefits, from approximately Sept. 1, 2006 to the trial date, and that she be reinstated to her previous position, or be awarded front pay. She also seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

The case has been assigned to Judge John Cummings.

Cabell Circuit Court case number 07-C-149

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