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Former employee sues WVU Research Corp.

The West Virginia Research Corp. is being sued by a former employee who alleges she faced discrimination before being fired.

Bruce P. Sparks, director of technology transfer, and WVU  are also named as defendants. Katherine E. Cappellari filed the suit last week in Monongalia County Circuit Court.

WVU can not comment on pending litigation and Sparks has not been an employee since June 30, according to WVU Spokesperson April Kaull. 

Cappellari alleges she was “repeatedly subject to discrimination based on her gender, subjected to pervasive and persistent racial and sex-based comments, experienced retaliation, subjected to threats, and constructively fired at the hands of her male supervisor and director of the Technology Transfer Office of the West Virginia University Research Corporation.”

The suit charges the defendants with creating a hostile work environment, failure to protect, Title IX violations and equal opportunity violations.

It seeks front and back pay, pre-and-post-judgment interest, compensatory damages, court fees and costs and punitive damages.

Cappellari was hired by WVURC in July 2013 and worked there until July 2018. She was  hired as a grant specialist with the office of technology transfer in March 2014, the suit said.

At that time, she was told by Sparks the promise of higher wages she was offered during the interview would not be granted because he mis-labeled the position, according to the suit.

In September 2014, during a meeting with a superior, Matt Harbaugh, her title was changed to licensing associate and was told the pay increase would be provided.

In July 2015, Cappellari was asked by a superior to also work with  the office of technology transfer and the health science innovation office, the suit said.

That same month, Sparks met with Cappellari and said he would no longer have her work for him, according to the suit. He was going to “give up the good work that you [Cappellari] do because having a shared employee never works” and he told her she “would be sorry.”

Cappellari was told she would report to Sparks again after an office restructuring in July 2017. 

She called Sparks to “get clarity on new job duties.” Sparks told her she was “a bitch and that everyone knew it,” but if she did what he said she could keep her job, according to the suit.

At a meeting at Buffalo Wild Wings, in August 2017, Sparks told Cappellari he was working to get rid of another employee and if she wanted his job she just had to do what he asked without question, the suit said. He told her if she talked about it with anyone he would “bury” her.

Cappellari reported Sparks’ repeated use of the word “bitch” to describe her and his threat to bury her to Jared Wood, human resources partner.

Wood told her Sparks “had to be taken with a grain of salt because he is a good ole boy from southern West Virginia,” the complaint said. He also said Sparks had nothing but good things to say about Cappellari and her work but because of the difficulties, she would report to someone else.

Over the next year, Cappellari had many duties removed at the direction of Sparks, the complaint said.

In July 2018, Cappellari resigned. In March 2019, a man was hired for  the same position making double what Cappellari did, the suit said.

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