CHARLESTON -- A former employee is suing Charleston Area Medical Center for discrimination.

Alicia Foster was employed at the hospital since 1985 as a registered nurse and in 1994 was promoted to Charge Nurse at CAMC's Women's and Children's Hospital, according to a complaint filed Nov. 16 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Foster claims she was constructively discharged from her employment in retaliation for advocating for patient safety and care.

According to the suit, prior to 2005 CAMC began a compliance hotline that was initially intended to assist in Medicare compliance for hospital staff, but eventually became a way for hospital staff to make anonymous complaints about CAMC employees.

In May 2005 Foster received her first anonymous complaint from the hospital hotline that claimed she was being rude to a physician with whom Foster worked, and further alleged she was mean to a nurse co-worker.

Foster claims she questioned the physician about the incident, but the physician did not believe she had been rude or short during the conversation. Following the anonymous call, Foster met with hospital management who advised her to pay better attention to how she said things and not to work more than three 12-hour shifts in a row.

Following the incident, Foster did not receive any more complaints until 2007. The anonymous complaint claimed Foster had been rude and/or mean to her co-workers, but no adverse employment action was taken as a result of the complaint.

Foster claims she became more concerned regarding her demeanor toward her co-workers following the 2007 incident and went without any further incidents until 2009.

On Sept. 10, 2009, Foster was informed that two anonymous complaints had been made about her in July 2009. The first complaint claimed she was yelling and screaming at the front desk of the hospital, pointing her finger in someone's face and accused Foster of singling out and demeaning one person on each shift she worked. The second complaint claimed Foster had worked two weekends in a row with the caller and had made her work environment unbearable.

Foster claims she was suspended without pay for three days, demoted and received a 6 percent pay cut. She claims after facing scrutiny in her workplace she was constructively discharged on Sept. 10, 2009.

Foster is suing for compensatory and punitive damages; and back pay, front pay and all out-of-pocket losses for violation of West Virginia Patient Safety Act, constructive retaliatory discharge, retaliation and severe emotional distress. She is being represented by Mark L. French and Matthew S. Criswell if Criswell & French, and Matthew A. Victor of Victor, Victor & Helgoe.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge James C. Stucky.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 09-C-2145

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