West Virginia Record

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Woman says boss at W.Va. State mistreated, wrongly fired her

By Cara Bailey | Nov 16, 2007

CHARELSTON - A Kanawha County woman has filed a suit against West Virginia State University, claiming she was wrongfully fired and assaulted by her supervisors while working at the school.

Katara Sowell filed a suit Nov. 1 against the West Virginia State University Research and Development Corporation in Institute.

Sowell began working at WVSURDC on Feb. 1, 2007, when she was hired as a Human Resources Assistant. She worked directly under defendant Shelvy L. Campbell, the human resources director.

According to the suit, Sowell is an African-American and married to Tryreno Sowell, the director of admissions for the university.

Sowell claims that shortly after she was hired, Campbell began creating a hostile work environment, including denigrating, intimidating and verbally threatening Sowell.

According to the suit, Campbell constantly cursed and swore at Sowell, and violently slammed books, doors and filing cabinet drawers in her presence. Campbell also required Sowell to run personal errands for her that were completely unrelated to her job at WVSU, such as picking up Campbell's son and do activities on behalf of the youth football league of which Campbell was the president.

Campbell also verbally threatened on at least one occasion to "beat up" Sowell, the suit says.

Sowell claims she tried to talk to Campbell's supervisor, but was rebuffed and told that she would simply have to sit down with Campbell and talk things over with her.

In May 2007, Sowell changed departments and went to work with Joseph Kusimo, who oversees the N.A.S.A. program at WVSU. Kusimo is also named as a defendant.

Soon after her hire, Sowell claims it became clear that she was never officially hired to work for Kusimo. Sowell claims she was denigrated, intimidated, assaulted and forced to work in a hostile work environment.

Sowell claims Kusimo requested her to teach a class after hours, and told her she would not be paid for the class. When she refused, Kusimo warned Sowell that he was a "black belt," "a man of honor," "a blessed man that didn't have to work" and that he "would not tolerate any disrespect."

According to the suit, Kusimo assaulted Sowell during a July 10, 2007, meeting. Sowell claims Kusimo approached her with his hands making chopping motions, and made Sowell stand in front of him and listen to what he had to say.

After several more incidents, Sowell's position was eliminated, based on "lack of funding."

In the four-count suit, Sowell seeks compensation for past lost wages and benefits, future lost wages and benefits, aggravation, annoyance and inconvenience damages, as well as punitive damages.

Attorney Glen A. Murphy is representing Sowell. Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker has been assigned to the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-2376

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