Arbitration slated for dismissed church educator's wrongful termination case

By Nicholas Malfitano | Feb 4, 2019

PHILADELPHIA – A church educator who believes her pursuit of a Workers' Compensation injury claim led her to be wrongfully terminated will have her case see arbitration in May.

According to a Jan. 30 order from the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Arbitration Center, Sanorra L. Payne’s lawsuit against Grace-Trinity United Church of Christ would see its arbitration hearing rescheduled due to a continuance. With the original date having been March 20, the continuance ensures that session is now set to occur on May 28 in the court’s Arbitration Center, at 1880 JFK Boulevard.

Sanorra L. Payne of Cheltenham first filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Oct. 9 versus Grace-Trinity United Church of Christ, of Philadelphia.

“Plaintiff Payne, a 49 year-old female, was employed by defendant from Nov. 11, 2010 until Nov. 27, 2017, the date of her unlawful and retaliatory termination. Throughout her tenure of employment, plaintiff Payne held the position of Director of Grace-Trinity Academy and at all times maintained a satisfactory job performance rating in that capacity,” Payne’s suit stated.

On Nov. 10, 2017, due to a colleague’s absence, plaintiff Payne served as a substitute teacher and monitored one of defendant’s pre-kindergarten classes, the suit said. While fulfilling that duty, Jakira Yancy, a parent of a school-aged student enrolled in the facility, arrived and requested to speak with plaintiff Payne regarding a payment issue, the suit said.

Subsequently, Yancy physically assaulted Payne, causing her to suffer both right arm and shoulder injuries, as well as severe emotional distress, the suit explained.

When Payne began writing up a Workers' Compensation injury report soon afterwards, she says she encountered resistance from school officials in receiving records needed to complete the form.

Just days after a leave of absence that had been approved months in advance, Payne says she was abruptly terminated for allegedly having demonstrated “poor leadership, tendency towards altercation and ongoing absence in the office.” But Payne avers her termination was due to her efforts to file a Workers' Compensation report.

Through a response filed Oct. 26, the church claimed Payne’s complaint was supported by nothing more than “vague allegations” and had not shown recklessness to apply for a claim to punitive damages.

For a lone count of wrongful discharge, the plaintiff is seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages each in excess of $50,000, plus interest, costs, attorneys’ fees and a trial by jury.

The plaintiff is represented by Sidney L. Gold, Traci M. Greenberg and Leanne L. Coyle of Sidney L. Gold & Associates, in Philadelphia.

The defendant is represented by Andrew S. Kessler and Susan M. Cirilli of Litchfield Cavo, also in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180700578

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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Litchfield, Cavo LLP Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Sidney L. Gold and Associates, PC

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