Pennsylvania Record

Monday, October 14, 2019

Former mental health facility manager's wrongful termination suit transferred to arbitration


By Nicholas Malfitano | May 16, 2019

PHILADELPHIA – A wrongful termination complaint filed by a former mental health facilities manager has now been transferred to arbitration, per an agreement from all parties concerned.

Raymond Burks of Philadelphia filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Dec. 4 versus West Philadelphia Community Mental Health Consortium, Inc., also of Philadelphia.

According to the litigation, on July 21, 2015, the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Labor & Industry conducted an inspection of the defendant’s property and found 10 violations of Philadelphia City Code.

On Feb. 8, 2016, the plaintiff was hired by the defendant as Assistant Facilities Manager. Over the following 17 months, subsequent inspections found a total of 59 violations of Philadelphia City Code on the defendant’s property – meanwhile, the plaintiff was injured on April 5, 2017 and returned to work 12 days later, on April 17, 2017.

When Burks returned to work, it was with limitations and restrictions, requiring him to sign a Driver’s Agreement & Authorization. However, it does not appear the date the plaintiff signed the agreement was made clear, which later became apparent when an injury report was filed with the Worker’s Compensation Bureau on April 20, 2017.

“On July 12, 2017, [Director of Human Resources] Laverne Pearsall accused plaintiff of violating the defendant’s vehicle policy. According to [Vice-President & COO] Patricia Brooker, it was at this time, July 12, 2017, that defendant realized that plaintiff had not executed the Driver’s Authorization and Agreement. On July 24, 2017, plaintiff was terminated by Brooker. The stated reason for termination was essentially poor performance,” the complaint stated.

“Brooker stated she had no confidence in plaintiff. On July 26, 2017, plaintiff filed a Worker’s Compensation Claim petition. Defendant unreasonably and wrongfully blamed plaintiff for the violations and citations. On Aug. 16, 2017, after plaintiff’s termination, L&I conducted an inspection/investigation of defendant’s property and found nine violations of Philadelphia Code by the defendant Consortium. Defendant had many L&I violations prior to and subsequent to plaintiff’s employment. The stated reasons for plaintiff’s termination were pretextual.”

On April 22, the defendant filed a motion for reconsideration, pointing out that the Court overruled the plaintiff’s own preliminary objections on April 16 before a proper response was filed to the defendant’s preliminary objections, thus allegedly entering conflicting orders

“There is good cause to seek reconsideration, as the Court entered conflicting orders on the same day. In one order, the Court required that plaintiff respond to defendant’s preliminary objections within 20 days. At the same time, the Court overruled those same preliminary objections, even though no response had been filed and they were not ripe for a decision,” the motion stated.

“This conflict in the Court’s Order constitutes a clear error of law. Defendant now seeks that Court reconsider its prior order and require plaintiff to respond to defendant’s preliminary objections so that a decision may be rendered on the merits.”

Also on April 22, Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Michael Erdos granted the motion for reconsideration, which vacated the original order overruling the defendant’s preliminary objections to the plaintiff’s complaint.

Through mutual agreement between the parties, the case was transferred to arbitration on May 1, according to Court records. Such a hearing in the matter has been scheduled for Oct. 22 at the Arbitration Center, located at 1880 JFK Boulevard in Philadelphia.

For a count of wrongful discharge, the plaintiff is seeking monetary and compensatory damages, liquidated damages, punitive damages, reinstatement, counsel fees, costs and any other relief that the Court deems fair, equitable and just.

The plaintiff is represented by Thomas More Holland and Kelly A. Trewella of the Law Offices of Thomas More Holland, in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by John P. Morgenstern and Rufus A. Jennings of Deasey Mahoney & Valentini, also in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 181200381

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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City of Philadelphia Deasey Mahoney & Valentini Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

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