CHARLESTON – A Raleigh County woman claims her supervisors wrongly terminated her employment after she filed sexual harassment and discrimination charges against her boss.
Sunshine Moorefield originally filed a complaint Aug. 12 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Federal Express Corporation.
Moorefield claims she lost her job as a senior swing courier with the company on May 6, 2009, after taking multiple days off under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
In September 2006, Moorefield began taking intermittent leave because of serious health conditions, including renal colic and anemia, according to her complaint.
Moorefield experienced no problems with her periodic absences until Ben Buisch became her supervisor in January 2008, the suit states.
"In or around March or April 2008, Ms. Moorefield was off work on medical leave for two surgeries," the complaint says. "Mr. Buisch harassed her about her medical conditions and use of medical leave."
Buisch also began making comments to Moorefield, suggesting she and senior manager Mike Davis were having an affair, Moorefield claims.
"For instance, he asked if she 'spits or swallows?'" the suit states. "Mr. Buisch also commented that she was 'screwing her way to the top.' Further, Mr. Buisch said that 'the rules don't apply to you because you hide behind FMLA and under Mike Davis.'"
Although Moorefield filed a complaint about Buisch's comments, he retaliated against her by increasing his comments, according to the complaint. In addition, he changed her work hours and increased her work load, the complaint says.
About three months after filing her complaint, Moorefield noticed minor damage to a FedEx garage door, which she reported to Buisch, the suit states. After inspecting the door, Buisch acknowledged that Moorefield's truck had not caused the damage to the door, Moorefield claims.
One day later, on Dec. 23, 2008, Moorefield got into a serious accident with her FedEx truck and had to take time off work for injuries she sustained in the collision, according to the complaint.
When she finally returned to work on March 30, 2009, Buisch placed Moorefield on suspension pending an investigation into the garage door incident and the accident, the complaint says.
Finally, on May 6, 2009, when Moorefield returned to work, Davis fired her for failing to report the garage door incident, despite the fact that Moorefield insists she did report it. In addition, Moorefield was issued a letter stating that the Dec. 23 accident was preventable and she failed to maintain control of her vehicle, according to the complaint.
Eventually, Moorefield appealed her termination and letter internally.
FedEx decided to remove the warning letter from her file, but upheld its decision to terminate her for the garage door, the suit states.
"Plaintiff believes this reason is pretextual," the suit states.
Although she was fired on May 6, 2009, Moorefield did not receive her final paycheck until June 19, 2009, -- long past the 72-hour time frame any company is given to pay its terminated employees, the complaint says.
In her suit, Moorefield alleges FedEx violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Wage Payment and Collection Act.
Moorefield is seeking declaratory judgments that FedEx violated the West Virginia Acts; a permanent injunction against FedEx, ordering it to establish an ongoing training program; and a permanent injunction against the company ordering it to cease from engaging in its alleged illegal behavior. In addition, she seeks back pay; a court order that reinstates her to her position; compensatory, liquidated and punitive damages; all economic losses; damages for her unpaid wages; liquidated damages of three times the amount of her lost wages; pre- and post-judgment interest; and other relief the court deems just.
FedEx removed Moorefield's complaint to U.S. District Court, saying it raises a "substantial federal question" under its Family and Medical Leave Act claims that only federal judges can review. Adjudicating the remainder of Moorefield's claims in federal court will expedite the process, FedEx says.
Kristina Thomas Whiteaker and David L. Grubb of The Grubb Law Group in Charleston will be representing Moorefield.
Mark H. Dellinger and Joy B. Mega of Bowles, Rice, McDavid, Graff and Love in Charleston and Karen Vaughan McManus of Memphis will be representing FedEx.
U.S. District Court case number: 2:10-cv-1105