CHARLESTON - A Georgia woman and former West Virginia State Bar employee is suing the bar and the state Supreme Court of Appeals again after she claims she was harassed during her employment.
Constance Blessing filed an identical lawsuit on Feb. 26, claiming she was discriminated against and the defendants violated her privacy. This latest lawsuit represents a wrongful discharge action for recovery against the state insurance liability coverage.
State Supreme Court Justice Brent D. Benjamin and Anita R. Casey, the executive director of the West Virginia State Bar, were also named as defendants in the suit.
Blessing was employed as the executive assistant of the West Virginia State Bar for more than 25 years until she was forced to resign on Feb. 28, 2011, according to a complaint filed March 29 in Kanawha Circuit Court.
Blessing claims her resignation was caused by willful, wanton, malicious, deliberate, discriminatory and oppressive conduct that amounted to constructive discharge.
Almost immediately upon assuming the position of executive director and as Blessing's immediate supervisor, Casey began criticizing operations of the state bar over the past 20 years and her criticism was belittlement and included constant disparagement of Blessing's job performance and abilities, according to the suit.
Blessing claims in addition to criticism, Casey would tell her she was overpaid.
Much of Casey's criticism of both the state bar and Blessing was related to Casey's predecessor and Blessing's former supervisor, Thomas R. Tinder, according to the suit.
Blessing claims Casey would tell the holdover staff from Tinder's tenure that they were "under-educated and overpaid."
Casey's criticism of the state bar's past performance; Blessing's work performance and compensation; the compensation and work of other holdover state bar staff members; and of Tinder was aided and abetted by a handful of present and former state bar presidents and board members, according to the suit.
Blessing claims the deliberate and malicious conduct toward her created an intolerable working environment that was aided and abetted by others, as well as tolerated and ignored by the state Supreme Court in its supervisory capacity, which constituted a constructive discharge that forced her to resign.
The defendants' conduct amounted to sexual discrimination as Blessing and others who were subjected to harassment and belittlement are female, according to the suit.
Blessing claims the defendants' conduct was also age discrimination and was an invasion of privacy.
The defendants' conduct constituted an intentional infliction of emotional distress that also physically harmed Blessing, according to the suit.
Blessing is seeking damages for loss of employment income and benefits in an amount no less than $200,000 and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. She is being represented by Richard A. Robb.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge James C. Stucky.
Because the bar is under its jurisdiction and certain staff members were allegedly made aware of Casey’s conduct, the Supreme Court and Benjamin are named as co-defendants in the suit.
Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 13-C-597