CHARLESTON – A Putnam County woman's complaint against her former boss and employers in which she alleged she was fired because of her reports of sexual harassment and illegal conduct has been dismissed.
Lorri Lambert originally filed a complaint June 5 in Kanawha Circuit Court against UCB Inc., Whitby Pharmaceuticals and Charles "Chuck" Fultz. The lawsuit was later removed to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, where it was dismissed with prejudice.
In her complaint, Lambert claims she began working as an in-field pharmaceutical sales representative for UCB and Whitby Pharmaceuticals on Jan. 14, 2008.
Throughout Lambert's employment, her boss, Fultz, regularly made degrading comments to her about her appearance, gender, weight and dress, she says. Once, he even told her that if she wished to continue wearing high heeled shoes, Lambert would be forced to lose weight, the complaint says.
"During Plaintiff Lambert's period of employment, Defendant Fultz regularly made inappropriate comments to her about her marriage," the suit states.
In addition, Fultz suddenly became critical of Lambert's work on Aug. 16, 2008, and told Lambert she failed to perform the required daily synch of information from her notebook computer to the company's network system, according to the complaint.
However, Lambert insisted she had completed the required task and proved as much to Fultz, the suit states.
Fultz went a step further and made false statements about Lambert's work performance, she claims. However, instead of admitting he made the statements, Fultz attributed the quotes to doctors who were within Lambert's area of responsibility, according to the complaint.
When Lambert approached the doctors about the statements, they denied saying them, the suit states.
After Lambert spoke to the doctors, Fultz prohibited her from visiting them unless he was present, the complaint says.
From Sept. 29 through Oct. 3, Lambert claims she attended a meeting in Salt Lake City for the launch of a new pharmaceutical product, Keppra XR. While Lambert and her co-workers were at the meeting, Fultz directed them to employ certain practices when handling pharmaceutical product samples, according to the complaint.
However, Lambert believed Fulltz's directions to be illegal and presented her concerns to UCB's and Whitby Pharmaceuticals's corporate offices on Oct. 6, the suit states. She received a reply ordering her not to follow Fultz's instructions, the complaint says.
After her complaints, though, Lambert claims UCB and Whitby Pharmaceuticals initiated an investigation into Lambert's employment based upon complaints she had made about Fultz and his instructions.
On Oct. 9, Fultz contacted Lambert about his need to review a written complaint with her, even though no prior reference to such a complaint had been made. Lambert never did meet with Fultz after receiving instructions from UCB's and Whitby Pharmaceuticals's human resources department to disregard the meeting, according to the complaint.
Subsequent to her suffering through months of Fultz's alleged hostile treatment and harassment, Lambert sought medical assistance on Oct. 16, the suit states.
Still, Fultz's harassment did not end, so Lambert reported his behavior to UCB's and Whitby Pharmaceuticals's human resource department on Oct. 24, the complaint says.
Following Lambert's complaints, Fultz set up a meeting with her scheduled to take place on Oct. 31 at a hotel in Morgantown, where he promised they would write up a performance improvement plan, Lambert alleges.
"At this time, Plaintiff Lambert was rated in the company as 46th among 93 sales representatives in first-generation drug sales; and rated as 3rd among 93 sales representatives in second-generation drug sales according to Defendants' most recent quarterly production reports thus evidencing that Plaintiff Lambert's work production was far above average," the complaint says.
Because of her alleged superior performance, Lambert e-mailed a woman objecting to participating in a performance improvement plan and to meeting with Fultz alone in a hotel, the suit states.
On Nov. 9, Lambert received an e-mail from UCB's and Whitby Pharmaceuticals's human resources department telling her she was placed on a two-week suspension without pay. In addition, Lambert was informed an investigation was being initiated, according to the complaint.
Later, Lambert learned her former employers were contacting medical offices on her call lists in an effort to discover or investigate complaints against her that could be used to justify her termination, the suit states.
"Defendants moved forward with the termination of Plaintiff's employment in spite of having notice that the information serving as the basis for said termination was fabricated and untrue," the complaint says.
On Nov. 24, Lambert attended a meeting in Pittsburgh where she was told she had committed gross misconduct and was being terminated, the complaint says.
"Defendants terminated Plaintiff Lambert's employment in retaliation for her inquiry to corporate compliance for instruction to engage in illegal activity, as well as, complaints of hostile work environment and retaliatory conduct by Fultz," the suit states.
When she was fired, Lambert claims she did not receive her final wages and benefits within 72 hours as required by the Wage Payment and Collection Act.
Because of her termination, Lambert says she lost wages and benefits and suffered indignity, embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress.
UCB and Whitby Pharmaceuticals removed the case to federal court because Lambert -– a West Virginia citizen –- is a resident of a different state than the defendants -– Delaware corporations. In addition, Lambert is seeking a judgment of more than $75,000, the defendants contend.
The defendants also asked for the case to be dismissed, which a federal judge granted.
In her complaint, Lambert was seeking compensatory and punitive damages, plus pre- and post-judgment interest, attorney fees and costs and other relief the court deems just.
Lambert was represented by Michael A. Olivio and Shawn R. Romano of Romano and Olivio in Charleston.
UCB and Whitby Pharmaceuticals were represented by Michael S. Mitchell of Fisher and Phillips in New Orleans and by Brian J. Moore of Dinsmore and Shohl in Charleston.
U.S. District Court case number: 2:09-CV-774