West Virginia Record

Friday, January 24, 2020

Woman sues West Virginia State University for wrongful termination

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 7, 2016

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CHARLESTON - A former employee is suing West Virginia State University after she claims it wrongfully terminated her employment.

West Virginia State University Research & Development Corporation; Dr. Orlando F. McMeans; Dr. Ami Smith; Kimberly Osborne; and Dr. Brian O. Hemphill were also named as defendants in the suit.

On Sept. 26, 2012, WVSU R&D extended an offer of employment to Sarah Halstead as Interim Extension Specialist-Sustainable Economic Development, through a letter from McMeans, according to a complaint filed Jan. 5 in Kanawha Circuit Court.

Halstead claims on Oct. 16, 2012, she signed the employment agreement and on Feb. 4, 2014, WVSU R&D offered her a permanent position as Extension Specialist-Sustainable Economic Development.

On Feb. 7, 2014, Halstead signed the employment agreement, according to the suit.

Halstead claims during her tenure as Extension Specialist, she developed and led a design competition to “encourage innovative, viable restoration, adaptive reuse and sustainable property development plans for Henry Elden’s Top Of Rock and the 13 acres of wooded land surrounding it.”

Top-O-Rock us a unique and historic glass home and studio and in early May, Top-O-Rock was vandalized and footage of the trespassers was caught on surveillance cameras.

On May 14, Halstead posted still photographs of the trespassers at Top-O-Rock on her personal Facebook page in an effort to identify the trespassers, according to the suit.

Halstead claims on May 19, her employment was terminated and the defendants claimed that, while representing the WVSU Extension Service, she publically made criminal accusations against minors which were not authorized by the University or the Corporation and which do not represent the position of the University or the Corporation.

The defendant claimed that Halstead also failed to comply with previous direction given by the associate dean of the Extension Office to have press engagement approved through WVSU Office of University Relations and Operations, according to the suit.

Halstead claims the defendant violated her right to free speech and their actions were wrongful, unjustified and unlawful.

The defendants’ actions violated the conditions of her employment and their actions constitute wrongful discharge under the laws of West Virginia, according to the suit.

Halstead claims the defendant retaliated against her and breached its contract with her.

Halstead is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. She is being represented by Harry F. Bell Jr. of the Bell Law Firm PLLC.

The case is assigned to Circuit Judge Joanna Tabit.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 16-C-4

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