HUNTINGTON – A Cabell County woman is alleging being pregnant got her fired as a home confinement officer.
The Cabell County Commission is named as a co-defendant in a two-count civil rights lawsuit filed by Cindy M. Stiltner. In her complaint filed April 10, Stiltner, 30 and of Lesage, alleges her fellow HCOs and deputies from the Cabell County Sheriff’s Department harassed her about her pregnancy and used it as a tool to eventually fire her nearly two years ago.
CCSD is named as the other co-defendant. In West Virginia, county commissions and sheriffs are co-employers of HCOs.
According to her suit, Stiltner was hired to work part-time as a HCO in December 2008. Ten months later, she was brought on full-time.
From then until her termination almost two years later, Stiltner says she was one of the few, if not the only, female HCO on the 8-10 member staff.
After it became known in 2010 she was pregnant, Stiltner says some of her male co-workers began making unflattering comments about it. This included how she was “unable to do her job,” the complaint alleges.
Sometime thereafter, she says her supervisor, who is not identified in the suit, said she was “needed” on day shift to fill a vacancy created by a retired HCO. However, after beginning day shift on an unspecified day, Stiltner says “in lieu of her usual duties, [she] cleaned the bathrooms, took out the trash and scheduled inmates.”
A co-worker, who is also not identified in court records, said the story about her filling the retired HCO’s position on day shift was not entirely true, the suit alleges. Stiltner claims the co-worker told her the reason “you are off the road is because you are a liability. We don’t know what to do with you. You are the only uniform that is pregnant.”
As a result of her son being delivered via C-section on Feb. 13, 2011, Stiltner says she experienced unspecified health complications. A request to use her accumulated vacation time to recuperate was denied by her supervisor, who said she “didn’t work enough” to take time off, the suit claims.
In her suit, Stiltner avers the same supervisor allowed an unnamed male co-worker to use his vacation time as sick leave to recuperate from a heart attack.
Despite her complications, Stiltner says she returned to work from maternity leave on April 16, 2011. Four days later, she says she was ordered to qualify for handgun certification.
According to her suit, this was first time she attempted to qualify. Since she received no prior training, Stiltner says she failed to qualify.
In the course of waiting to again qualify, Stiltner says an unidentified male co-worker said she “was worthless since [she] got pregnant, and if he got promoted to supervisor [she] would be gone.” Despite reporting the remark to her supervisor, Stiltner says the co-worker was never disciplined.
When she did attempt to qualify a second time in June 2011, Stiltner says her instructor attempted to intimidate her by saying she would be fired if she failed again. The comment was in contradiction to departmental policy which stated a HCO or deputy would be terminated only after failing two additional qualification attempts following remedial instruction, she says.
After failing the second time, Stiltner was given a third attempt to qualify on July 22, but failed once again. A week later she received a letter saying her employment was terminated effective July 30, 2011, for flunking firearms qualification, she says.
However, in her suit Stiltner maintains at least four unnamed male HCOs were given more than three opportunities to qualify with a handgun and not fired.
As a result of her ordeal, Stiltner says at least one other CCSD employee who became pregnant about the same time she did chose “to quit her job rather than reveal the pregnancy.” The suit does not specify if the woman was a HCO or deputy.
Her termination, Stiltner says, was in retaliation for pointing out disparate treatment between herself and her male co-workers due to her pregnancy. As a result, she claims she’s suffered “lost wages, emotional distress, humiliation and ridicule.”
In her suit, Stiltner seeks unspecified damages, attorneys fees and court costs. She is represented by Charleston attorneys Maria W. Hughes and Mark Goldner.
The case is assigned to Judge Robert C. “Chuck” Chambers.
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case number 13-cv-7513