Former employee sues WKU, claiming mistreatment in firing

Former employee sues WKU, claiming mistreatment in firing

Jonathan Lintner

A former employee has alleged that WKU fired him for filing for worker’s compensation.

Joseph Martin, who worked at WKU’s Central Steam Plant until he was fired in February 2010, filed a civil suit against WKU and Sodexo, the company that operates the plant on campus, on Feb. 10 in Warren County Circuit Court.

Martin is seeking punitive damages for loss of income, loss of employee benefits, mental anguish and unnecessary expenses.

When asked for comment, Martin’s lawyer, Bowling Green attorney Wesley Lile, referred the Herald to the lawsuit itself.

“The actions of WKU and/or the various other Defendants are so egregious, intentional and reckless as to give rise to a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress,” said Lile in class action suit No. 11-CI-253.

Deborah Wilkins, chief of staff and general counsel, said WKU denies Martin’s allegations in the lawsuit.

“It’s not accurate,” she said.

Martin was hired in 2006 as a boiler operator at the steam plant. He suffered a knee injury on the job in 2007 and returned to work after treatment.

Martin was awarded an “enhancement factor of one” in his worker’s compensation claim, which means an injured worker is capable of doing his or her job without restrictions or limitations, by Judge Carolina Pitt Clark, according to the suit.

Wilkins said when Martin returned to work and continued feeling pain, he visited Dr. Craig Beard sometime between November 2009 and January 2010. Beard deemed that Martin’s injury had given him “permanent restrictions” on the job, Wilkins said.

“When the doctor brought us that information, we terminated (Martin),” Wilkins said.

Greg Stivers, a Bowling Green attorney representing WKU, said Martin reopened his worker’s compensation claim after he was fired.

Stivers said Martin is seeking a factor of three award, while the university believes he should have a factor of two award.

The higher the factor, the more money Martin would get from worker’s compensation.

Because the suit involves the Americans with Disabilities Act, it has been moved from circuit to federal court. No further action has been taken since it was filed in February.

Wilkins said the next step is for depositions to be taken, although dates haven’t been set.

Martin, according to the suit, also believes those at WKU conspired to fire him and used his injuries as a pretext. He claims WKU is in violation of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act and ADA.