GlaxoSmithKline faces wrongful termination lawsuit

Jon Campisi Sep. 27, 2011, 3:33pm

A former employee with GlaxoSmithKline has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the drug maker, alleging that his termination after almost a decade of employment was related to what he alleges were false charges against him of sexual harassment by a coworker.

The lawsuit was filed Sept. 22 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Bethlehem attorney George S. Kounoupis on behalf of New Hope resident John Covin.

Aside from the company, the other defendants named in the lawsuit are identified as Megan Shank, who is listed as GlaxoSmithKline’s director of human relations; Linda Meyerson, the company’s vice president; and Annabelle Fernandez, the company’s contract manager.

The complaint alleges that Covin, who had been the company’s director of grants and contracts since October 2001 and worked at its King of Prussia location, was fired in June 2010 for alleged sexual harassment or “other inappropriate touching.”

According to the lawsuit, in May 2009, defendant Fernandez, who was described as having a “friendly working relationship” with the plaintiff, fabricated an allegation that Covin had made inappropriate contact with her.

The suit claims that Fernandez was motivated to fabricate the story because of her alleged gender and age-hostile animus.

Covin, who was notified of the allegation by defendant Shank, requested an investigation on his behalf, but claims that no such “fair and objective” investigation ever took place.

He was subsequently fired on June 8, 2010.

“During the course of the termination meeting with Defendants Shank and Meyerson, Plaintiff strongly denied any inappropriate conduct or touching,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff asked for a full, fair and gender-neutral investigation and provided information that Fernandez was gender-hostile and that she had fabricated charges to get rid of him as a result of unfavorable performance evaluations of her by Plaintiff.”

Furthermore, the complaint states that while Fernandez had done “much worse to Plaintiff than anything he may have allegedly done to her, she was not investigated, disciplined or terminated.”

The lawsuit alleges that Covin, who was 65 at the time of his firing, was discriminated against based on his age. Defendant Myerson, in particular, often “exhibited stereotypical prejudices against males over 60,” the suit claims.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of violating the federal Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination Employment Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

The complaint also contains counts of negligence and retaliation.

Covin seeks compensatory and punitive damages, along with injunctive relief declaring that the company violated the law. He also demands lost wages, attorney’s fees and other court costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05988-CDJ.

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