Braxton County man sues State Farm for wrongful termination

By Kyla Asbury | May 21, 2013

CHARLESTON - A Braxton County man is suing State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company for wrongfully terminating his employment because of his age.

Mary Adkins, an employee of State Farm, was also named as a defendant in the suit.

Richard M. Roach Jr. was employed for approximately 23 years as a claims representative for State Farm in West Virginia, handling claims in the company's first-party claims unit, according to a complaint filed May 3 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Charleston.

Roach claims during the course of his employment, he was entrusted to investigate, evaluate and mediate first-party claims made by State Farm's policyholders and over the course of his employment, he was promoted numerous times, received positive evaluations and awards for exemplary customer service.

State Farm has recently begun implementing a series of cost-saving measures, including elimination of voluntary overtime and employee amenities, implementation of mandatory overtime and efforts to eliminate older employees believed to be more highly-compensated that younger employees, according to the suit.

Roach claims beginning in July 2011, Adkins began a campaign of petty harassment against him, disciplining him for purported infractions, such as clicking his computer mouse too quickly, tossing a notebook onto his desk with too much force for her liking, for tossing a pen inside his cubicle and for using his cell phone where other employees were not similarly disciplined.

Adkins also made negative comments about Roach's attire, even though he never wore anything inappropriate to work, according to the suit.

Roach claims on Sept. 11, he agreed to help an acquaintance and State Farm insured negotiate a settlement with Nationwide Insurance Company following a motor vehicle accident, as the acquaintance felt that she was being bullied by the Nationwide adjuster assigned to the claim.

As Roach was helping the acquaintance, he helped her on his own time, in an unofficial capacity  and without the use of any of State Farm's resources, according to the suit.

Roach claims on Sept. 21, he was informed he was being placed on administrative leave for assisting with his acquaintance's claim, and he was informed that was "acting like a lawyer," and that he was giving the appearance that was "working on the side."

Following his placement on administrative leave, Roach was informed on Oct. 10, that his employment was being terminated for a conflict of interest based upon "his relationship with Nationwide Insurance," according to the suit, and no one at State Farm was ever able to explain to Roach what actions he had taken that specifically constituted a conflict of interest.

Roach claims he believes his termination was motivated in whole or in part by a desire on the part of State Farm to rid itself of older employees and after his termination, the defendant failed to pay his final wages within 72 hours of termination.

State Farm is liable to Roach for the unpaid amount, as well as for liquidated damages in a sum of three times the amount, according to the suit.

Roach is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. He is being represented by Harry F. Bell Jr. and Jonathan W. Price of the Bell Law Firm PLLC.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Charleston case number: 2:13-cv-10215

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