Dental hygienist says she was victim of retaliatory firing and discrimination

By Chris Dickerson | Mar 19, 2019

NEW MARTINSVILLE – A dental hygienist claims she was the victim of a retaliatory firing and discrimination.

Karen Ullom, 56, filed her complaint March 19 in Wetzel Circuit Court against Dr. Andrea Lockhart, Adam Pendleton and New Martinsville Dental.

In her complaint, Ullom says she has worked as a dental hygienist for 33 years in the same office. It says Lockhart took over the practice and management of New Martinsville Dental on Jan. 1, 2018. Pendleton is Lockhart’s boyfriend and began working at the practice in July 2018.

“Pendleton did not have a specific job title but was given a back office,” the complaint states. “Pendleton would exercise decision-making power as if he were in a position of authority.”

In November, according to the complaint, Ullom was in Pendleton’s office when she saw Google Home Hub that showed video of the front area of the office. He told her it was so he could watch the front and help if it got busy. He said he planned to place cameras all over the business, including operatory areas.

Even before that incident, “plaintiff and coworkers suspected they were being recorded based on (Pendleton and Lockhart) being aware of conversations that occurred outside of the defendants’ presence,” the complaint states. “Upon being shown the array of cameras, plaintiff informed defendant Pendleton that she believed using the cameras to record patients violated HIPAA.”

Pendleton denied that it was a HIPAA violation, and he also said the business didn’t “need permission to secretly record their workplace and that cameras would be placed in the operatories to protect against a lawsuit.”

On Nov. 26, Ullom sent a text message to Lockhart saying she wanted to speak to the doctor regarding her objections about the cameras. She says Lockhart told her she was the boss and that Ullom “would do as she was told.”

On Dec. 3, Ullom was fired, being told her “services were no longer required.”    

Ullom also makes claims of discrimination.

She says she was asked “about how long did she intend on continuing to work and would often hear the phrase, ‘At your age …’” the complaint states. “Plaintiff was often placed into hostile and uncomfortable situations when defendants would make racist remarks and refer to clients of a mixed racial background as ‘Oreos.’”

Ullom also says she has been told patients have asked about her.

“Defendants have lied and informed patients that the plaintiff is sick, or has retired or has gotten a job elsewhere,” she claims.

Ullom claims she has suffered economic loss (including lost wages and benefits), mental anguish, humiliation, annoyance, inconvenience and a loss to her professional reputation. She seeks compensatory damages as well as punitive damages. She also seeks attorney fees, court costs, expenses and other relief.

She is being represented by Teresa Toriseva and Jake Polverini of Toriseva Law in Wheeling. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge David Hummel.

Wetzel Circuit Court case number 19-C-17

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