West Virginia Record

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Lifeguard's discrimination lawsuit against rec center operator Centers moves to federal court

Federal Court

By Kyla Asbury | Jan 10, 2020

Discrimination 12

HUNTINGTON – A lawsuit against Centers LLC alleging employment discrimination was removed to federal court because it involves alleged violations of federal laws.

Plaintiff Madeleine Veilleux alleges that Centers committed employment discrimination in violation of federal law; thus, the case is removable under federal question jurisdiction, according to the notice of removal.

"Veilleux alleges that Centers violated Title VII by the underlying facts referenced in the complaint," the notice states. "Consequently, Veilleux's claims arise under the 'Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States' within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. Section 1331, and this matter is, therefore, removable under 28 U.S.C.§ 1441."

The defendant also argues that because it is a Washington, D.C. corporation and the plaintiff is a resident of Cabell County, there is complete diversity of citizenship, meaning the case must be removed to federal court.

Centers also alleges that the amount in controversy exceeds the $75,000 threshold and should be removed for that reason.

Veilleux filed the lawsuit against Centers in Cabell Circuit Court in November before it was removed to U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. 

Veilleux claims Centers provides recreation and fitness center services at Marshall University and she began working for Centers as a lifeguard in February 2017. In the fall of that year, she was promoted to an aquatic supervisor.

The plaintiff asked her supervisor on Oct. 27, 2018, a question regarding the scheduling of swim lesson assignments and, instead of answering her question, the male supervisor advanced toward her "in a physically imposing manner" until he was inches from her and told her to "cut the attitude," according to the suit.

Veilleux claims shortly after the incident, she and a co-worker agreed to trade lessons and the same supervisor threatened to remove her from the schedule.

The plaintiff had a personal relationship with another employee that ended in November 2018 and, after it ended, the male employee began to harass her during work hours, according to the suit.

Veilleux claims she asked the employee to stop and provided a verbal report of the harassment to her immediate supervisor and asked to file a formal report, but the supervisor failed to provide her with any information on how to do the formal report and, instead, claimed that nothing could be done to prevent the harassment. 

Veilleux claims personal use of cellphones are prohibited during work hours, but on Nov. 29, 2018, she sent a work-related text to her supervisor and later during her shift, she went to the guard room to see if the supervisor had responded. When this occurred, she was seen by another supervisor and told to put her phone down and go clean windows.

When she re-entered the guard room to get cleaning supplies, she was informed she was going to be sent home, according to the suit.

Veilleux claims during that same shift, she was informed her employment was being terminated.

Other employees who did not make a report of sexual harassment and had used their cellphones while on duty were not terminated or reprimanded, according to the suit.

Veilleux claims she timely filed charges of sex discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was issued a right to sue letter from the commission.

Veilleux claims the defendants caused her harm by discriminating against her. 

Veilleux is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. She is represented by Hoyt Glazer of the Law Office of Hoyt Glazer.

Centers is represented by Brian J. Moore and Chandler E. Strogen of Dinsmore & Shohl.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number: 3:19-cv-00850

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