BECKLEY -- A Wyoming County man claims he was wrongfully barred from joining a union because of his age.

In June 2003, Billy Jessie of Wyoming County was one of two of the oldest non-union, salaried employees working for Mystic, LLC. His supervisor, Benny Milam, said he would place the two oldest non-union, salaried employees into the union. Following this announcement, Milam called in a union employee, Roger Keaton, and said he was not going to allow Jessie to be promoted to union status because of his age.

In the complaint, originally filed on August 11, 2006, Jessie, 62 years old, claims the defendants, Mystic, LLC and Bennie Milam, willfully and intentionally discriminated against him and then told other employees it was because of his age.

In the suit filed by Richard Hardison Jr., of Beckley, Jessie is seeking trial by jury to award punitive damages for mental anguish, emotional distress, lost opportunity to receive a pension and health benefits after retirement, harm to his reputation, humiliation, embarrassment, aggravation, annoyance, inconvenience, and attorney's fees. He is also seeking damages to deter Mystic, LLC and Milam from repeating this conduct in the future.

Jessie and Hardison filed the complaint in the Circuit Court of Boone County, and now, Mystic, LLC and Milam are seeking a removal from the Circuit Court of Boone County to the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.

Filed by Ann Haight and Stephen Weber of the Charleston firm of Kay Casto & Chaney, the removal is being sought by the defendants because the amount Jessie is seeking could amount to more than $75,000. Because of this reason, Mystic, LLC and Milam believe that the United States District Court has jurisdiction.

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