W.Va. State named in discrimination, breach of contract suit

By Lawrence Smith | Feb 24, 2010

CHARLESTON - In addition to reneging on their offer to promote him, a Charleston man alleges officials at the university where he worked terminated him for lodging complaints of discrimination.

Melvin Poore filed suit against West Virginia State University on February 16 in Kanawha Circuit Court. In his seven-count complaint, Poore, 51, alleges WVSU first used a promotion to appease his claims of age and race discrimination only to later fire him for pressing the complaints with authorities when State failed to honor its agreement.

According to his suit, Poore worked as a shipping and receiving assistant at the university's Physical Facilities Department on its main campus in Institute. Though records do not specify when he was hired, Poore claims he "performed all his job assignments in a satisfactory manner."

Also, Poore's suit does provide specifics, but he alleges while employed at State he "was subjected to repeated and ongoing discriminatory practices from his superiors based upon [his] age and race." As a result, Poore lodged a complaint on an unspecified date with the state Human Rights Commission.

Sometime thereafter, Poore alleges he received a written notice of appointment stating he would receive a promotion to "Pay Grade 11" which would boost his salary to $20,191. If he agreed to the terms of the notice, he was instructed to sign, and return it to Hazo W. Carter Jr., State's president.

Upon Carter signing it, the "Notice of Appointment served as a written contract." The suit does not specify when either Poore or Carter signed the notice.

Nevertheless, Poore alleges he "fulfilled all job assignments associated with his promotion to Shipping/Receiving Assistant in a satisfactory manner following the execution of the contract." However, State "refused to pay to the rate of compensation" in violation of the notice of appointment.

According to his suit, Poore, on an unspecified date, lodged complaints of not only breach of contract, but also age and race discrimination when he did not receive the increase in pay. In response to the complaints, he alleges that Philip Judd, the director of Physical Facilities, "falsified allegations against [him] in an effort to terminate [his] employment."

The suit is unclear as to what impact Judd's allegations played, but Poore maintains he was terminated "as a result of his complaints against [State]." Undaunted, Poore continued to assert his claims of age and race discrimination against State with the Human Rights Commission until they issued him a right to sue letter on Nov. 16.

Along with ones for breach of contract, and discrimination, Poore makes claims against State for fraudulent inducement to contract, disparate treatment, intentional infliction of emotional distress and violations of the state Wage Payment and Collection Act. As a result of State's actions, Poore maintains he suffered "indignity, embarrassment, humiliation and emotional distress," and has incurred lost wages and benefits.

Poore seeks unspecified damages, including treble damages for WPCA violations, interest, attorney fees and court costs. He is represented by Charleston attorney Michael A. Olivio.

The case is assigned to Judge Jennifer Bailey.

Kanawha Circuit Court, case number 10-C-287

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