Former employee sues Centers for discrimination

By Kyla Asbury | Oct 29, 2012

HUNTINGTON -- A former employee is suing Centers LLC after he claims he was discriminated against because of his disability.

Keith Hernstrom and Andy Darling also were named as defendants in the suit.

On Jan. 26, 2009, Christopher Schneider was hired and retained by Centers to perform certain services as a borrowed servant, according to a complaint filed Sept. 24 in Cabell Circuit Court.

Schneider claims between Jan. 26, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010, he was legally employed and paid as an employee of Aetna Building Maintenance, but worked under the exclusive control and supervision of Centers, and in his assigned position, he was responsible for overseeing the maintenance of the building systems and equipment at the Marshall University Recreation Center.

On Oct. 1, 2010, Schneider was hired as a full-time employee of Centers to assume the position of Facility Services Lead, according to the suit, and in his assigned position, he continued to perform the same basic managerial job duties and responsibilities as he had before as a borrowed servant retained from Aetna Building Maintenance.

Schneider claims during his employment, he was classified as a salaried and full-time exempt employee and was not paid overtime for any time worked in excess of 40 hours per week.

With the approval of his supervisors, Schneider, up until Oct. 18, 2011, regularly performed various job functions from his home and from other remote locations away from the facility, according to the suit, and due to the inherent nature of his job responsibilities as a building manager, Schneider would often perform certain job functions during times outside the weekday hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Schneider claims in August 2010, he was diagnosed with discogenic lumbar disease and due to his disabling condition, he was required from time-to-time to attend doctor’s appointments to receive certain non-invasive treatments.

On each occasion that Schneider was required to leave the workplace to attend a doctor’s appointment, he notified his supervisors in advance of the appointments and exercised reasonable steps to ensure that his work responsibilities were otherwise fulfilled, according to the suit.

Schneider claims Hernstrom, who was hired in August 2010 as the Assistant Director of Facilities and Operations at Centers, was his immediate supervisor.

In early 2011, Hernstrom notified Schneider that Centers would strictly enforce a requirement that he be physically present and working at the facility at least 40 hours each week, according to the suit, and each time thereafter that Schneider would need to leave for doctor’s appointments he was to use sick leave or else to come to the facility at other specified times in order to make up any time he was away.

Schneider claims in June 2011, Hernstrom gave him a positive annual job evaluation, but from June 30, 2011, until Aug. 11, 2011, he harassed and criticized him concerning his disability by accusing him of making excuses for leaving work to attend doctor’s appointments.

Due to Schneider’s need to receive medical treatment, he was granted short-term disability leave from Aug. 19, 2011, until Oct. 17, 2011, according to the suit.

Schneider claims in retaliation for his prior complaints against Hernstrom and Darling, when he returned on Oct. 18, 2011, his job duties were changed and most of his managerial responsibilities were taken away.

On Nov. 29, 2011, Schneider’s employment was terminated and he was given no opportunity to respond to the pre-texual and patently unjustified reasons cited by Darling for his termination, according to the suit.

Schneider claims his employment was wrongfully terminated because of his disability.

As a result of the defendants’ actions, Schneider suffered embarrassment, humiliation, annoyance and inconvenience, according to the suit.

Schneider is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. He is being represented by Kurt E. Entsminger.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge David M. Pancake.

Cabell Circuit Court case number: 12-C-636

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