Cops and Courts

Former doctor files lawsuit against WVU Hospitals, board of governors

A civil complaint filed by a former employee in the Circuit Court of Monongalia County has initiated the first steps in a lawsuit against the West Virginia University Board of Governors, West Virginia University Hospitals and West Virginia University Medical Corp./ University Health Associates.

According to the suit, the plaintiff, Christina Wilson, P.H.D., is an African American female who was formerly and jointly employed by the defendants as a clinical neuropsychologist in the WVU Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry, where she “devoted her time, effort and emotional labor to the defendants and her patients for 26 years.  She brought honor to the defendants in her field of neuropsychology as a community and nationwide leader on critical diversity issues.” 

The suit claims Wilson’s efforts were met with disparate treatment and retaliation that forced her into a premature retirement, adding that throughout her employment the work environment with the defendants was “infected with acute race discrimination and bias of both a direct and indirect character.”

The suit also claims Wilson was not compensated, promoted and evaluated in the same manner as her non-minority colleagues under specific models and schedules of the defendants.

Wilson said since being hired by the defendants she earned numerous professional honors, accolades and publications in her field and was at the forefront and served in leadership positions on issues of race, gender and socioeconomic issues.

Wilson believes she is not alone in her experience, stating that from 2018-19, about eight minority faculty members in her department or related departments left their positions with the defendants compared to just one white faculty member leaving.  Wilson claims at least four of these minority faculty members informed her their departures were race-related.

In March 2020, the suit said, Wilson became the ninth such minority faculty member when she was forced into early retirement by the defendants after experiencing numerous explicit instances of race discrimination.

Wilson claims she frequently reported and complained of race discrimination to no avail.  One particular occasion is cited in which Wilson says a staff member was assigned to connect her desktop and laptop computer to the hospital system on which reports and billing documents are filed and saved.  “This staff member refused to perform these duties and expressly indicated that the refusal was based on the fact that Dr. Wilson was African-American and he would not ‘serve’ her.”  Despite reporting the incident to supervisors and superiors, Wilson said no corrective action was taken, according to the suit.

The lawsuit also states Wilson feels she was “ambushed” and angrily confronted by her superiors in regards to a bullying accusation and ordered to consult with the WVU Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion who ultimately found she had not engaged in any wrongdoing.

A little over a year later, upon applying for a renewal of clinical privileges, the suit says Wilson was once again ambushed and presented with a letter alleging unfounded and vague criticisms of her job performance and indicated her clinical privileges had been renewed under the condition she comply with numerous punitive measures, including mental health counseling, unwarranted monitoring and disparate scrutiny.

Wilson said she wrote two letters to defendant officials addressing multiple questions and concerns she had regarding the criticisms, neither of which received a reply, leaving her unable to fully understand, address, or resolve the matter. 

According to the lawsuit, there were also instances that Wilson discovered she did not have the same access to hospital databases and patient networks as her colleagues and also did not receive proper training to complete requirements of a performance improvement plan.

In early 2020, Wilson said she was sent to the hospital’s Medical Executive Committee, the most extreme form of discipline, after more confusing accusations against her.  

Wilson claims before the committee meeting she was “ominously warned” she would be reported to the national board database and the meeting would require her to indicate she had been investigated on future employment applications, despite no indication she sought other employment.

“These outcomes could be avoided if she were to resign her employment,” the suit alleges.  Based on these warnings Wilson submitted a letter of retirement effective March 2020, well before the time she planned to end her employment with the defendant.

Wilson is seeking back pay, front pay, compensatory damages for physical, emotional and mental distress, humiliation, anxiety, embarrassment, depression, aggravation and annoyance, and any related court costs.

Wilson’s attorney Sean W. Cook, of Scott Depot said, “Dr. Wilson brings her claims not only to recover the significant damages she has personally suffered, but also to cast light on the institutional discrimination she and so many other African-Americans have suffered at the hands of the Defendants.”

Defendants in the lawsuit, WVUBOG, WVUH, and WVUMC/UHA did not wish to comment at this time.