Two women say they were victims of racism, sexism, wrongful firing

By Cara Bailey | Mar 7, 2007

CHARLESTON - Two Kanawha County women say their former employer showed racial insensitivity and sexual harassment and then unlawfully fired them.

Joan Marie Isbel and Leah Hairston filed their lawsuit Feb. 26 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Putnam County Aging Program. The suit says both women were "long term stellar" employees.

On Aug. 31, 2006, the company terminated employees, handing out grievances that stated, "that when selecting employees for reduction in force, consideration is given first to job skill, then to personnel evaluation records and then to seniority, in this order."

"None of which was done since, if the procedures were followed, they could not possibly have resulted in the lay off of two highly experienced, senior, exemplary employees," the suit says.

Isbel and Hairston claim they were fired for being "whistle blowers," sending a letter to the board members charging the director with several wrongdoings, including racial insensitivity and sexual harassment.

The suit says the director made many racial remarks toward Hairston because she married an African-American, and together they have a child. The suit also says the director made many "tasteless" remarks to Isbel and fired her in retaliation for complaining about the harassment.

Isbel and Hairston seek reinstatement to their jobs, with back pay and benefits, including raises, as well as punitive damages and court costs.

They are being represented by attorney Roger D. Forman, and the case had been assigned to Judge Louis Bloom.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-352

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