Wrongful termination suit remains active


September 20, 2012

POINT PLEASANT — A lawsuit filed by two former employees of Pleasant Valley Hospital who claim they were fired based upon their sexual orientation remains an active case with PVH’s CEO denying the employees were fired for being gay via a court affidavit.

Late last year, Terry Greenwald-Hill and Amy Leach, former human resources and marketing directors, respectively, for PVH, filed the wrongful termination suit. In their complaint, Greenwald-Hill and Leach say they feel the “true reason” for their termination was “because they are lesbian, because Defendants perceived them to be lesbians and/or because they do not conform to traditional sex or gender stereotypes acceptable to Defendant Board Members.”

As previously reported, the suit claims William Barker, vice-president for business development at PVH, and Thomas Schauer, PVH’s chief executive and financial officer were “involved in, conspired, aided and abetted and participated in the [Board of Trustees’] decision” regarding the termination of the two women. Along with Barker and Schauer, PVH’s Board of Trustees, of which there are 19 members, were initially named as a co-defendant in the suit.

Since the lawsuit’s initial filing, a voluntary motion to dismiss at least some of the trustees was approved. Dismissed from the case were Alex Scott Barnitz, Mike Bartrum, Dorsel Keefer, William Knight, Clayton Faber, Stephen Rerych, M.D., James Rossi, William Tatterson and Lannes Williamson. This meant the remaining co-defendants named in the lawsuit are now Pleasant Valley Hospital, Inc., Pleasant Valley Board of Trustees Peter Allinder, Annette Boyles, Charles Lanham, Mario Liberatore, Jack Buxton, O.D., Randall Hawkins, M.D., C. Dallas Kayser, Michael Lieving, James Lockhart, D.D.S., R. Michael Shaw as well as Barker and Schauer.

The case has been assigned to David W. Nibert, chief judge of the fifth judicial circuit court which includes Mason County. Earlier this month, Nibert responded to counsel for Greenwald-Hill and Leach who asked the court to summarize the potential conflict it may have in presiding over the case as it relates to the trustees of PVH. Of the remaining co-defendants, Nibert wrote he would not feel comfortable presiding over the case if Kayser, Lieving or Shaw remain defendants in any capacity other than a representative capacity.

“In other words,” Nibert wrote, “if the plaintiffs are proceeding against any of those three individuals for personal liability, I would not preside over the case.”

Nibert elaborated, saying Kayser was a former brother-in-law and father of Nibert’s nephew. Lieving is Nibert’s current brother-in-law. Shaw is an attorney practicing before the bar of the fifth judicial circuit court.

Also earlier this month, an order was filed stating Greenwald-Hill and Leach agreed not to seek monetary relief from Barker and Hawkins, but to only proceed as against Barker and Hawkins for injunctive relief. The order says, “Based upon such agreement and stipulation, the ‘Motion to Enforce Bankruptcy Stay’ filed on behalf of Barker and Hawkins is moot.”

This meant the court ordered all claims for monetary relief against Barker and Hawkins were dismissed. It is further ordered Greenwald-Hill and Leach can proceed against Barker and Hawkins for equitable relief only.

Also in the case filings from earlier this year is a notarized affidavit from Schauer in which he states on March 18, 2011, upon his directive as Interim Chief Executive Officer, Greenwald-Hill and Leach were terminated as employees at PVH, based upon his belief that their terminations were in the best interests of the hospital. Schauer states the decision to fire the women was his and his alone.

“I did not discuss my decision to terminate Plaintiffs with any member of the Board of Trustees either before or after Plaintiffs were terminated. I recall that I advised the Board that following an investigation, I terminated some employees. I do not recall mentioning Plaintiffs by name to the Board or any Board member asking me which individuals terminated.”

This affidavit also states under the corporate bylaws of PVH, the only employees the Board of Trustees have the authority to hire and fire is the chief executive officer, and that all other personnel decisions rest with the Chief Executive Officer.

Schauer’s statement ends with: “My decision to terminate Terry Greenwald-Hill and Amy Leach was not based upon their gender or any perception regarding their sexual orientation. I did not have any knowledge or belief regarding Ms. Greenwald-Hill’s sexual orientation, nor did I care. I considered Amy Leach a friend and had met her partner several times.”

Greenwald-Hill and Leach have alleged a double standard of misconduct by PVH male employees and certain male board members which did not result in the termination of these employees or board members. Greenwald-Hill and Leach claim that no misconduct or lesser misconduct by the plaintiffs resulted in their termination.

Their initial complaint goes on to state: “Holding Plaintiffs to a standard of conduct different from those of the Defendants’ male employees and certain male Board Members is discriminatory against Plaintiffs based upon their gender, female.”

The complaint alleges the termination of the two women is in violation of the West Virginia Human Rights Act which prohibits against discrimination based on sex — including discrimination based on sexual orientation, as well as discrimination based on negative sex or gender stereotypes.

The initial complaint also stated the two women are asking for an award of damages including front pay and back pay, as well as compensatory damages for emotional distress, an award of punitive damages and reinstatement to their jobs at PVH.