WKU engaged in 9 ongoing lawsuits


WKU is currently involved in nine lawsuits, said Deborah Wilkins, chief of staff and general counsel.

Despite having some of the cases extend further than she anticipated, Wilkins said she’s confident WKU will come out fine when the court makes its rulings.

Junlian Zhang v. WKU – Filed Nov. 26, 2007

Zhang, a former WKU employee, claims she was fired because of discrimination regarding her gender and pregnancy. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of WKU in September 2010. Zhang has since filed two appeals in December 2010. The first appeal was based on the summary judgment’s dismissal of several of Zhang’s claims. The second appeal was based on the trial judgment. Wilkins said both appeals will be consolidated so the case can proceed in a unified manner.

Elizabeth Esters v. WKU – Filed Oct. 6, 2009

Elizabeth Esters, who voluntarily retired from the university, claims WKU breached her employment contract. Both parties involved have agreed to submit briefs and accept a judge’s review and ruling, meaning a jury will not hear the trial. The case is pending.

Gina Brown v. WKU – Filed March 19, 2010

Brown was fired from the university in January 2009, and complained of a hostile environment based on her gender and race, and disparate treatment based on gender, race, age and retaliation.  The case was set for a jury trial on May 15, but Brown’s attorney moved for it to be postponed.

Raymond Elms v. WKU – Filed Nov. 10, 2010

Elms claimed his termination from WKU in October 2010 stemmed from age discrimination. The discovery process is proceeding. The case is currently pending before the court.

Joe Martin v. WKU, Sodexo – Filed Feb. 10, 2011

Martin claimed WKU and Sodexo — a food and facilities management service WKU uses — terminated his employment in retaliation for Martin filing a workers’ compensation claim. WKU filed a motion for summary judgment. The case remains pending before the court.

Marilyn Gardner v. WKU – Filed May 24, 2011

Gardner claimed WKU discriminated against her on the basis of disability and retaliation. This case is currently pending.

Amy Eckhardt v. WKU – Filed July 11, 2011

Eckhardt claimed WKU violated the Kentucky Whistleblower Act and Kentucky Open Records Act. She also claims invasion of privacy and libel in relation to her termination from WKU on April 2011. The case remains pending before the court.

Arianna Petty v. WKU – Filed Dec. 16, 2011

Former student Arianna Petty claimed she suffered physical and emotional damage from a fight with another female student. Petty also claimed WKU was negligent by not preventing the fight. WKU has filed a motion to dismiss the case based on lack of jurisdiction. The Kentucky Board of Claims heard Petty’s claim and it granted a motion for dismissal on March 5. The court gave Petty until May 21 to file an amended complaint. This claim is being held until the Circuit Court case is resolved.

Cheryl Lewis-Smith v. WKU – Filed Jan. 30, 2012

Former employee Cheryl Lewis-Smith filed a civil suit claiming WKU eliminated her position due to her race, age and as a result of retaliation for bringing discrimination concerns to the university’s attention. No other developments have occurred as of August 24.