WKU involved in six ongoing civil suits

Katherine Wade

WKU has six lawsuits currently underway.

Deborah Wilkins, chief of staff and general counsel, said all of the cases are in “a holding pattern.”

  • Oct. 6, 2009 – Elizabeth Esters, who had voluntarily retired, alleged that an employment contract between her and WKU was breached by the university. Wilkins said this case is pending in the Franklin Circuit Court but no trial date has been set.
  • March 19, 2010 – Gina Brown was terminated on Jan. 19, 2009. Brown filed a complaint alleging a “hostile environment” based on her gender and race, and “disparate treatment” based on her gender, race, age and retaliation. Brown is a black female. WKU denied the allegations in the complaint by filing an answer. Wilkins said the discovery phase has begun on this case and they have taken Brown’s deposition as well as a couple other depositions.
  • Nov. 10, 2010 – Raymond Elms was terminated on Oct. 5, 2010. Following his termination, Elms, who is 48, alleged that he was discriminated based on age. According to Kentucky law, it is illegal for an employer to fire, refuse to hire or otherwise discriminate against anyone due to their age if the individual is older than 40 years old. WKU said Elms, an employee for 27 years, was fired for his excessive use of a university cell phone, including 218 long-distance phone calls and 5,687 personal text messages. Wilkins said the discovery phase on this case has begun.
  • Feb. 10, 2011 – Joe Martin, a former employee of WKU’s central steam plant, filed a case claiming that WKU and Sodexo terminated his employment in response to him filing a workers compensation claim. Wilkins said this case is pending.
  • May 24, 2011 – Marilyn Gardner, who is currently employed at WKU as an associate professor of public health, alleged that WKU violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 violations in relation to accommodation of her disability. Wilkins said they have not begun discovery on this case.
  • July 11, 2011 – Amy Eckhardt, the former director of Scholar Development for the Honors College, was terminated on April 1, 2011. Eckhardt then filed a case alleging that WKU had violated the Kentucky Whistleblower Act, Kentucky Open Records Act, invasion of privacy and libel in regards to her termination by releasing her termination letter to the Herald. Wilkins said they have not started taking depositions yet in this case.

Wilkins said it is not at all unusual for a case to be filed and then not go in front of a jury for several years.

“The legal system in the United States moves very slowly,” she said. “The court systems are full. It just takes time.”