CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - A former Johnson C. Smith University employee claims the school fired her after she filed a workers' compensation complaint due to contracting a mold-induced illness.
According to a lawsuit, Christine Taylor, who was a full-time post officer manager at the university, said her and other employees learned they were exposed to mold in their office after "an environmental agency evaluated and assessed the area."
The incident happened in March 2016 and Taylor claims she was suffering from severe headaches, congestion, fatigue, allergic reactions, a burning tongue and chronic coughing when she learned about the mold exposure, the lawsuit states.
Taylor then reportedly told her manager and a HR representative about her symptoms who then choose her a healthcare provider. The lawsuit states that Taylor's healthcare provider told her that "she should not return to work in that environment." A month later, Taylor claims her and other employees were relocated to another building on the university's campus but she continued to have similar symptoms.
The lawsuit states that the university refused to pay for Taylor's medical treatment. She then filed a workers' compensation claim "in an effort to continue to get the medical care she needed for treatment of the symptoms she continued to have as a result of the mold exposure."
The plaintiff claims that she continued seeking medical care and in November 2016 she reportedly was diagnosed with Aspergillosis. The lawsuit states that the infection is caused by exposure to mold spores in the work environment. Taylor's physician allegedly told her that if she continued working in that office then it would be "detrimental to her health," according to the lawsuit.
After contacting her employer to determine whether her accommodation could be granted, the university allegedly eliminated her position and told her that she would be "terminated if she could not transition into another position." The university said they terminated her position due to "budget issues," the lawsuit claims.
The lawsuit claims that HR told Taylor that she was qualified for another position but she disagreed. That is when Taylor claims she was terminated from her job, according to the lawsuit.
According to the lawsuit, the university informed employees that the location was free from mold in September, however, Taylor claims that was false since the area reportedly continued to have "leaking and missing ceiling tiles, HVAC and other issues that could be harmful to those employees exposed to such an environment."
She says that her office had a history of mold contamination and employees were exposed in 2009, resulting in the staff being relocated to another building for some time, according to the lawsuit.
Taylor claims that the university fired her in "retaliation" after she filed a workers' compensation claim, an OSHA complaint, demanded that her civil rights be protected and due to disability discrimination.
The lawsuit states that Taylor wants "compensatory damages for pecuniary losses, emotional pain, physical illness, personal sickness and mental anguish in excess of $25,000. Taylor is also asking for punitive damages in excess of $25,000 and treble damages in excess of $25,000.