CHARLESTON - The woman in charge of the office that handles claims against state agencies is accused of creating a hostile work environment by a former employee.

Cheryle M. Hall is named as a defendant in a five-count sexual harassment/wrongful discharge suit by Melissa Fleming. In her complaint filed Aug. 19 in Kanawha Circuit Court, Fleming, 40 and a Chapmanville resident, alleges Hall - 68, a Charleston resident and clerk of the West Virginia Court of Claims - not only made “crude and lurid comments of a sexual nature” to and about Fleming when she worked at the court as a paralegal, but also accused her of conspiring with one of her superiors to get her fired.

An arm of the state Legislature, the court hears claims for damages made against state agencies. It also oversees the Crime Victims Compensation Fund.

According to her suit, Fleming went to work for the court in October 2008. Over the next three years, she alleges Hall made comments about her that “were neither allowed, invited nor wanted.”

Those include on an unspecified date, Hall telling one of Fleming’s co-workers that if she wasn’t interested in her boyfriend anymore “I am sure Melissa does, we all know how she is.” Also, Hall allegedly said to other court employees “all Melissa is interested in is (penis).”

Furthermore, Fleming says after she returned from a seminar in Cleveland later than everyone else, Hall said “she wasn’t surprised, I know what she is up to.’”

According to the suit, Fleming on an unspecified date informed the three judges who hear the cases that Hall unilaterally changed an order awarded to a motorcyclist. Hall decreased the award by half, Fleming says, because she does “not like motorcycle riders.”

When she found out about that, Fleming says Hall “retaliated against [her] on a daily basis by humiliating her in front of her co-workers, screaming at [her] in Hall’s office and reducing her workload.” Also, Fleming alleges Hall began circulating rumors that she was “a spy” for Aaron Allred, manager and auditor of the Legislative Auditor’s Office, who Hall believed “wanted to get rid of [her].”

In her suit, Fleming claims “due to the stress of working under Hall, [she] was forced to resign her position on Aug. 19, 2011.” As a result, Fleming says she took a pay cut in accepting her new job.

In addition to lost wages, Fleming alleges she suffered “emotional distress [and] embarrassment” as a result of Hall’s conduct. Along with ones for sexual harassment and wrongful discharge, Fleming makes claims against Hall for both negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress and violation of the state Human Rights Act.

She is represented by Charleston attorneys Trent A. Redman and Michael Payne. The case is assigned to Judge Carrie M. Webster.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 13-C-1569

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