Former ER nurse sues Camden-Clark for wrongful termination

By Lawrence Smith | Jun 10, 2011

PARKERSBURG – After being falsely accused of unprofessional behavior, a former emergency room nurse at a Wood County hospital is suing to get her job and reputation back.

Charlene Stephens filed a wrongful termination suit against Camden-Clark Memorial Hospital in Wood Circuit Court. In her complaint filed May 19, Stephens, a Williamston resident, alleges C-CMH fired her in 2009 for improperly handling medications.

However, she maintains the accusation, which was eventually proven baseless by a state regulatory agency, was a pretext to replace her with a younger, male nurse.

Earlier this year, C-CMH merged with St. Joseph's Hospital to become Camden-Clark Medical Center, an affiliate of West Virginia United Health System.

According to her suit, Stephens worked in Camden-Clark's emergency room until May 2009. Though it does specify when she started, the suit maintains she performed her job in a "satisfactory, even exemplary manner, and received good performance evaluations during her employment."

Nevertheless, on May 19, 2009, Stephens was fired from Camden-Clark following allegations she "mishandled medications." Her termination, Stephens alleges, was done "without an adequate investigation."

Shortly after her termination, Stephens says Camden-Clark filed a complaint against her with the state Board of Nursing. After it received the complaint, the Board requested additional documentation from Camden-Clark.

According to the suit, in her reply dated June 4, 2009, the administrator who made the initial complaint against Stephens recanted virtually all the allegations saying the missing medications involved only two Lortabs. However, those were eventually accounted for.

The name of the administrator is not stated in court records.

In her suit, Stephens maintains the computer systems Camden-Clark used to order and dispense medication is largely to blame for her troubles. The systems, Med Host and PYXIS, were in place less than a year prior to her termination, and prone to making regular errors in the "documentation and dispensing of medicine."

Though changes were made to correct the problems, Stephens says Camden-Clark refused to allow her the opportunity to refute the allegations or have her job back. Regardless, on an unspecified date, the Board dismissed the complaint against her.

In her suit, Stephens alleges her firing was motivated by Camden-Clark to "eliminate older, more senior female employees" with the missing medication providing the needed excuse. Since she was terminated, Stephens alleges Camden-Clark replaced her "with a less experienced, male employee under the age of 40."

That person is not identified in court records.

Prior to her termination, Stephens maintains she "was the highest paid nurse with the best schedule in the ER." As a result of it, Stephens says she's suffered "mental distress, humiliation, anxiety, embarrassment, depression, aggravation, annoyance, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life."

Along with unspecified damages, including front pay, back pay and reinstatement, Stephens seeks court costs, attorney fees, interest, and a court order establishing an on-going age discrimination training program at Camden-Clark. She is represented by former Wood County Prosecutor Ginny A. Conley.

Wood Circuit Court case number 11-C-214

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