Woman said she was fired over ethnicity

By Justin Anderson | May 21, 2009

CHARLESTON – A woman is suing a local hospital company and one of its employees, saying the employee discriminated against her and got her fired from her job.

Blessing Eya filed a lawsuit May 5 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Charleston Hospital Inc., doing business as St. Francis Hospital, and Mary Beth Smith, who apparently was in charge of hiring.

Eya claims that Smith has had a problem with her since she interned at Thomas Memorial Hospital in 2002. At that time, Eya claims in the lawsuit that Smith "demonstrated all manner of loathe and discomfort" toward her, even though the two only had a handful of causal contacts.

Eya sought a job at Thomas following her internship as a nurse. She claims she failed to get a job even though she was qualified.

When she went to the hospital to ask about her application, Eya claims that Smith was hostile and rude to her.

According to the lawsuit, Smith told Eya: "Listen, you do not need to come here and bother us. We do not need you here, Ms. Foreigner."

On another occasion, Eya claims Smith told her: "Let me make it clear this time: We hire only U.S. citizens. We do not hire foreigners here."

Eya says she is not a U.S. citizen, but does have permission to work here.

In January, Eya says she applied for a nursing job at St. Francis. After completing orientation, Eya says there was a get-together for new employees.

She said at the party, Smith sat next to her and Smith's body language showed discomfort. Eya alleges that Smith "did not eat anything at the party; she was restless; left her seat frequently; sighed several times a minute; fanned her nose with her hand is if she perceived some odor; trashed her food; and at one pint asked (Eya) to shift further away from her."

As Eya moved to another seat, she claims Smith said to her: "What do you people eat in your country? You stink."

Eya claims she wept, but did not make a big deal about the encounter because she wanted to keep her job.

However, on March 13, Eya claims she was called in to meet with Smith and the nursing manager and told she was fired because she had been rude to a patient weeks earlier. Eya said she was confused.

She claims she got on her knees and begged Smith for her job.

When the nursing manager left the room, Eya said Smith was again rude to her.

According to the lawsuit, Smith told Eya: "As long as I am in charge of personnel in any hospital in West Virginia, you will never have a job, you worthless foreigner that stink (sic) like a skunk.

"When I finish with you in this state, you will no longer have a license in West Virginia. I advise you to go back to your country of apes and chimpanzees and look for a job and take care of those monkeys."

Eya claims that Smith persuaded others to initiate mental hygiene proceedings against her. However, at a March 16 hear, Eya claims the petition was dismissed for lack of merit.

She's seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Geoffrey Ekenasi is representing the plaintiff. The case is before Kanawha Circuit Judge Paul Zakaib.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-820

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