BECKLEY -- A Raleigh County woman alleges she was terminated from her job as a maid at the Mine Safety and Health Administration after attempting to bring awareness to illegal practices.
Regina A. Williams, who had been working at MSHA since Oct. 15, 1997, was fired Oct. 3, 2007, for reporting possible fraudulent practices against the government, according to the complaint filed Sept. 29 in Raleigh Circuit Court.
The fraud began shortly after Basic Contracting Services Inc. entered into a contract in 2001 with MSHA in which it agreed to provide cleaning services, the suit states.
From then on, Williams claims she began to notice BCSI double billing MSHA.
According to the complaint, this is how BCSI's scheme worked:
It billed MSHA for both the number of hours a janitor worked and the number of rooms a maid cleaned. Any janitor time not used was to be reimbursed to MSHA under the contract, according to the complaint.
When it was shorthanded, BCSI would ask a janitor to perform the maid's work. But when it billed MSHA at the end of the month, BCSI would charge both the janitor's hourly rate and the maid's room rate, even though the janitor had performed only maid's work, the suit states.
"This way the defendant did not reimburse or otherwise make up for the lost janitor time while continuing to receive monies for the maid's services," the suit states. "Since the defendant only had to report janitor's work according to time spent and the maid services according to the number of rooms cleaned, it could avoid letting MSHA know it was double billing."
In addition, maids were only supposed to clean a certain number of rooms per day, but were routinely asked to clean more than that, Williams alleges.
"Thus, BSCI, would get paid the number of rooms without hiring additional maids," the suit states.
Williams claims she approached several people, including the superintendent of the Mine Academy, an MSHA employee and a union representative, about her concerns, but no one would do anything.
However, there was one person Williams did not approach – her project manager.
"The plaintiff perceived that the defendant, BCSI, created an intimidating and hostile environment toward anyone who complained," the suit states.
But during one of Williams' conversations with the MSHA employee, her co-worker overheard her complaints and told their supervisor of Williams' suspicions on Sept. 11, 2007, according to the complaint
On Sept. 24, 2007, Williams claims she was suspended for insubordination and for improperly cleaning a room.
"The defendant BCSI's, definition of insubordination involved the plaintiff having gone outside the BCSI chain of command to the 'customer' (MSHA) with complaints," the suit states.
Williams returned to work Sept. 28, 2007, according to the complaint.
Because she feared additional repercussions for her whistle-blowing activities, Williams claims she approached an EEO counselor at MSHA about her worries.
The counselor sent an e-mail detailing Williams' fears to the counselor's boss, which eventually was sent to BCSI's CEO on Oct. 2, 2007, according to the complaint.
On Monday, Oct. 1, 2007, Williams claims she was told to leave because she was under investigation for "a room."
Only two days later and one day after the e-mail was sent to the CEO, Williams was fired for continued failure to meet job standards and insubordination, according to the complaint.
"Although the defendant, BCSI, referenced job performance in its termination letter of October 3, 2007, the motivating factor behind her termination was BCSI's perception that she had complained to the EEO officer and the MSHA COTR, rather than job performance," the suit states.
Because she was terminated, Williams claims she suffered annoyance, inconvenience, embarrassment, humiliation and loss of dignity.
She has also lost wages and employment benefits and has suffered emotional distress and financial hardship, according to the complaint.
Because BCSI is a corporation operating out of New Mexico and Williams is a West Virginia citizen and because the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000, BCSI has removed the case to federal court.
Williams is seeking actual damages, including back and front pay and the value of lost benefits, plus compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages.
She is also seeking an injunction prohibiting BCSI from engaging in discriminatory behavior in the future, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, costs and other relief to which she may be entitled.
Karen B. Kostol of Beckley will be representing her.
A. Patricia Diulus-Myers and Denise R. Brossman of Jackson Lewis in Pittsburgh will be representing BCSI.
U.S. District Court case number: 5:09-0049