Nurse says she was wrongly fired after reporting racial slur

By Lawrence Smith | Aug 26, 2010

PARKERSRBURG –- A Wood County home-health nurse has filed suit against her former employer alleging she was terminated for reporting a racial slur.

Debra D. Barker filed suit against Mulberry Street Management Services Inc. on July 15 in Wood Circuit Court. In her complaint, Barker alleges she was fired from Mulberry in March after reporting to management that a co-worker made an inappropriate racial remark about her children.

According to her suit, Barker began work for Mulberry in November 2008. Based in Morgantown, Mulberry is a home-health agency that does business as West Virginia Select and the Coordinating Council for Independent Living through eight locations across the state including Parkersburg.

On March 3, Barker alleges a co-worker made reference to her children as "niggers." The suit makes no other reference to her children except they are bi-racial.

That same day, Barker alleges she met with Christina Jones, a fellow registered nurse, and the Parkersburg site's supervisor, and David Wilson, Mulberry's assistant vice-president. She reported how the co-worker's utterance of epithet not only made her "embarrassed and hurt by these references" but also how "she should not have to work in an environment where such language was tolerated."

Later on March 22, Barker alleges she was called on Jones' office to have another meeting with her and Wilson. It as during this meeting that Wilson told Barker, "'I have your termination papers and I need you to sign them.'"

When asked why she was being fired, Wilson replied "'I don't have a reason to fire you. I am just to let you go. Christina doesn't even know why.'" After Barker tearfully asked what she did wrong, Wilson said " 'nothing. I just hope you don't hate me one day."

Shortly thereafter, Barker alleges Wilson instructed Jones to escort her out of the building and ask for her keys to the office.

According to her suit, Barker did not receive her final paycheck until March 30, three days past the 72 hours required by the state Wage Payment and Collection Act. Also, Barker received a check for 2.5 hours of accrued leave on March 30, and another for $91.80 on April 26.

Barker alleges her termination was a direct result of reporting the racial epithet to Jones and Wilson. In addition to violating the state Human Rights Act, Barker alleges Mulberry violated the WPCA by not paying all her wages within 72 hours of being terminated.

Barker seeks unspecified damages, including the value of lost wages and benefits, and reinstatement to her job, civil penalties for WPCA violations, court costs and attorney fees. She is represented by Walt Auvil with the Parkersburg law firm of Rusen and Auvil.

The case is assigned to Judge Jeffrey B. Reed.

Wood Circuit Court case number 10-C-292

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