Cabell man says he was victim of discrimination, wrongful firing

By Cara Bailey | Nov 23, 2007

HUNTINGTON - A Cabell County man filed a suit against his former employer, seeking damages pursuant to the West Virginia Human Rights Act after he was fired.

Stephen Spence, 57, filed a suit Oct. 30 in Cabell Circuit Court against Sullivan-Schein Inc. and Henry Schein Inc., claiming he was unlawfully discriminated against, based on his disability.

According to the suit, Spence had worked for Schein as a dental equipment service technician since Nov. 5, 2001. The suit says the standard practice for equipment service technicians at Schein is for the home office to issue all work.

Spence claims he had a satisfactory work record with Schein prior to being fired and was very liked by most of his customers. He was due to retire Nov. 5, 2006.

In March 2005, Spence was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which had advanced to his lymph nodes and testicles. He sought chemotherapy at St. Mary's Medical Center, which was paid for through his health insurance.

He was scheduled to have a radical prostatectomy procedure May 23, 2005.

According to the suit, Spence stopped working May 23, 2005, and resumed working in September, as a volunteer, and resumed working on the payroll in November 2005.

According to the suit, Owens, the Regional Operations Manager, was aware of Spence's health condition and scheduled treatments.

Owens told Spence to "relax" and "take it easy" and advised him not to push himself. She also often told Spence to take the day off if he wasn't feeling well.

"Despite his post-surgery physical limitations, Stephen was capable of performing his duties, and had received good evaluations and work records and he managed to successfully field the 'work orders' as they came in from headquarters," the suit says.

On Aug. 25, 2006, Owens called Spence and asked is they could meet for lunch, as she had "some things to talk about," the suit says.

While at lunch Owens told Spence he was fired because his numbers were down. Upon further inquiry, Spence was told numbers in his area were down so his job was eliminated.

However, not long after he was fired, another dental equipment service technician, who was 32, took over his territory.

Due to Schein's failure to pay its mandatory unemployment premiums, Spence could not collect unemployment compensation, therefore, had to endure two months without any income or insurance.

In the five-count suit, Spence claims he was discriminated against and suffered lost wages and benefits, and experiences embarrassment, humiliation and considerable emotional and mental distress, anguish, pain and injury.

Spence seeks compensatory and punitive damages.

Attorney Ashley Lockwood representing Spence. The case has been assigned to Judge David Pancake.

Cabell Circuit Court case number 07-C-969

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