Jury rules against woman who claimed employer thought she was a lesbian

By Kyla Asbury | Nov 19, 2013

CHARLESTON - Earlier this year, a Kanawha County woman lost her lawsuit against the Bob Burdette Center that claimed its board members fired her because they believed she was a lesbian after looking at her Facebook profile.

Norman Cannada, Jean Cunningham, Mark Miller, Samuel Sommerville and Lisa Thomas were also named as defendants in the suit.

A judgment order was filed Feb. 19 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Following an eight-day trial, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on Nov. 15, 2012, but reconvened the following day. The jury eventually found that the defendants did not discriminate against the plaintiff based on gender.

The jury also found that Bob Burdette Center, Cunningham and Mark Miller did not discriminate against her based on her sexual orientation. However, the jury did find that Sommerville, Stoner and Cannada discriminated against the plaintiff based on her sexual orientation.

But the jury found that the defendants did not act with extreme or outrageous conduct and, in doing so, did not intentionally or recklessly cause severe emotional distress to the plaintiff and did not award her any damages.

On May 8, 2011, the center announced in the classified section of the local newspaper that it was seeking candidates for the position of executive director and that a search committee comprised of members of the Board would be accepting resumes until May 26, 2011, so Jessica A. Hudson applied for the position, according to a complaint filed Aug. 29, 2011, in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Hudson claimed the center was impressed with her interviews and hired her on June 13, 2011, but that she advised them that she had to give her current employer two weeks’ notice and that she would be able to attend meeting and work part time until the two weeks were up.

On June 20, 2011, the defendants called and informed Hudson that the job offer was rescinded because of “inconsistencies" in her resume and "misrepresentations allegedly made” during her interviews, according to the suit.

Hudson claimed the board members’ real reason for firing her was because they perceived her as a lesbian after looking at her Facebook profile.

Discrimination based on sexual orientation violates the intent of other public policy, according to the suit.

Hudson claimed the defendants’ actions caused her emotional distress.

Hudson was seeking compensatory and punitive damages; front pay and back pay; and an order barring the center from discriminating. She was being represented by Ricklin Brown and Mary Pat Statler of Bailey & Glasser LLP.

The defendants were represented by David J. Mincer and Suleiman Oko-ogua of Bailey & Wyant PLLC.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Carrie Webster.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 11-C-1493

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