Division of Juvenile Services accused of discrimination

By Kyla Asbury | Nov 25, 2013

CHARLESTON - A woman is suing the acting director of West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services after she claims she was discriminated against.

W. Todd Hayes, the former facility director of the Dr. Harriet B. Jones Treatment Center, was also named as a defendant in the suit.

Taya L. Trent was hired as a correctional officer for the treatment center on Dec. 3, 2012, and consistently performed her duties in a satisfactory manner and met the defendants' reasonable expectations, according to a complaint filed Nov. 12 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Trent claims on March 18, she was informed that a correctional officer, Joseph Weekley, forced a juvenile resident to drink water from the toilet and went to the clinical director, Pam Poling, and made a good faith report of the wrongdoing.

Following her good faith report, Trent was subjected to retaliation by her co-workers and Hayes, who was her supervisor, according to the suit.

Trent claims after an investigation, Weekley submitted his resignation and at that time, Hayes' office assistant, Nancy Higginbotham, returned to work after an extended leave.

Higginbotham is Weekley's mother and on April 8, Trent attended a performance review with Hayes, the suit says. However, the performance review was actually prepared by Higginbotham, and Trent expressed concern that Higginbotham was present at the meeting and participated in the review, according to the suit.

Trent claims on April 9 she was again directed to report to Hayes' office and against objected to Higginbotham's present in the meeting. During the meeting, Hayes accused Trent of falsifying her time cards.

On April 15, Trent attended a pre-determination hearing via video conference held by Stephanie Bond and Brenda Hoylman and during the hearing, Trent raised several concerns including maltreatment of residents, improper conditions at the center and the hostile work environment and retaliation she was experiencing, according to the suit.

Trent claims she specifically asked for whistleblower protection against retaliation and both Bond and Hoylman replied that she was not entitled to that protection, which was in violation of West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services Policy.

On May 14, Trent received notice from Bond that Higginbotham had filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint against her. The complaint was baseless and filed in retaliation for her good faith report that her son abused a juvenile resident, according to the suit.

Trent claims on May 17, her employment was terminated in retaliation for her good faith report of wrongdoing.

Trent is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She is being represented by C. Benjamin Salango, Kristina M. Salango and Patrick J. Salango of Preston & Salango PLLC.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge James C. Stucky.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 13-C-2107

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