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Former Employee Files Suit Against LANS, Co-workers

on December 27, 2014 - 1:27pm
By CAROL A. CLARK
Los Alamos Daily Post

A former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee filed suit Dec. 11 in First Judicial District Court in Santa Fe against Los Alamos National Security, LLC and three co-workers.

Suzanne D. Coyne issued the complaint against LANS and three co-workers including Nicholas Degidio, Gail McGuire and Jackie Little. Coyne's husband Robert J. Coyne Sr., joined her in the court action filed through their attorney, Paul W. Grace, Esq.

Grace spoke with the Los Alamos Daily Post and said that the complaint he filed on behalf of his clients is grounded on the wrongful treatment received by Suzanne Coyne as a LANL employee. Her claims are based in breach of contract, retaliation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, violations of the Family Medical Leave Act, and other wrongs committed against her by LANS and its management, agents and employees, including failure to follow policies and procedures relating to safety and security in the workplace, rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, reports of co-worker misconduct, and workplace violence.

Coyne's husband asserts claims for loss of consortium resulting from the injuries suffered by his wife. The Coynes are seeking compensatory damages against the defendants in an amount to be determined at trial; an award for Suzanne Coyne for liquidated damages against the Defendants as provided by law in an amount to be determined at trial; punitive damages against the Defendants in an amount to be determined at trial; reasonable attorney’s fees, expenses, and costs as provided by law; pre-judgment and post-judgment interest; and such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.

A LANL spokesperson told the Los Alamos Daily Post Wednesday that, "The Laboratory has a policy of not commenting on personnel issues." 

The Coynes reside in Los Alamos and Suzanne was employed by LANL and contractors for 14 years. The court action was filed in Santa Fe District Court because one or more defendants reside there, according to court documents. LANS is a Delaware Limited Liability Company registered to do business in New Mexico specifically to manage LANL.

General Allegations Per Complaint:

Ms. Coyne began her career at LANL in 1999 working for LANL contractors. In July 2003, Ms. Coyne became an employee of LANL. Over the years, she assumed increased responsibilities as a Project Administrator Lead, Records Manager, and a Project Team Leader supervising up to seven employees.

In November 2011, Ms. Coyne became aware that a student intern whom she was mentoring, Marina Meneakis, was interested in returning to work at LANL for one week during the upcoming winter school break. In early December 2011, the Information Resources Management (“IRM”) office for the Document Control Service Group issued a directive that, due to funding issues in IRM, student interns were not to be brought in to work during the winter break without strong justification. Ms. Coyne communicated this information to Ms. Meneakis, who then apparently approached Defendant Little and asked her to intervene.

Ms. Little became obsessed about bringing Ms. Meneakis in to work for one week during the holidays notwithstanding the IRM directive, and she berated Ms. Coyne on several occasions for “her” refusal to accommodate the request. Ms. Coyne tried to explain to Ms. Little that her hands were tied, but Ms. Little refused to accept the decision. Ms. Little continued to harass Ms. Coyne about Ms. Meneakis’ situation in person and by email. Ms. Coyne asked Defendant McGuire and her customer, Steve Veenis, to intervene because of Ms. Little’s behavior, but they did nothing. 4

On or about December 13, 2011, Defendant Little entered Ms. Coyne’s office, closed the door, and sat down. She had entered the office so quietly that Ms. Coyne was startled to see her there when she turned around. Ms. Little again argued that Ms. Coyne should allow the intern to work during the holiday school break. Ms. Coyne reiterated that this was not possible. Ms. Little, clearly frustrated, stood up abruptly, opened the door, and then advanced on Ms. Coyne backing her against her desk and started screaming at her. Ms. Little raised her arm and began jabbing her fingers close to Ms. Coyne’s face while continuing to scream at her. Then Little stormed out of the office and slammed the door.

Ms. Coyne was stunned by Ms. Little’s conduct and was very shaken up and frightened by the assault. She called the Human Resources (“HR”) office to report the incident, but was told that Coyne should contact her supervisor. Accordingly, Ms. Coyne proceeded to Defendant McGuire’s office to report the incident.

Ms. McGuire told Ms. Coyne that she was doing the right thing by reporting the incident to her. Ms. Coyne asked McGuire whether she should also inform IRM Group Leader, Nick Degidio, and her Division Leader, Jim Harding, about the incident. Ms. McGuire assured Ms. Coyne that she would take care of contacting them and suggested that Ms. Coyne return to her office.

Ms. Coyne returned to her office and remained there for the rest of the day very shaken from the experience.

The next day, Ms. Coyne returned to work. When she asked McGuire what was being done about the assault, McGuire stated that she and Gail Toddings, a Division Leader in ADEP, were handling it. 5

The following week, Ms. Coyne again asked Defendant McGuire whether anything was being done about Ms. Little’s misconduct and whether Ms. Little’s supervisors had been notified. McGuire said she would convene a meeting after the holiday break.

After the holiday break, Ms. Coyne again inquired about the status of any investigation of the assault. Defendant McGuire seemed annoyed and told her she should just forget about the incident. When Ms. Coyne persisted, pointing out that LANL policies required that incidents of workplace violence be taken seriously, McGuire told Ms. Coyne that she was just making trouble and that she needed to “let it go.” Ms. Coyne continued to insist that the assault by Ms. Little be dealt with appropriately, but nothing was done at that time.

LANL Procedure P724, Workplace Violence was in effect in December 2011. Policy P724 directs the affected worker to notify her group- or higher-level manager when she is a target of workplace violence and to cooperate with those investigating workplace violence incidents. Upon receiving a report of workplace violence, the manager is required, among other things, to notify HR and the next higher-level manager of the report. HR is required, among other things, to coordinate responses to incidents of workplace violence and to conduct investigations of incidents of workplace violence.

Ms. Coyne fully complied with her obligations under Policy P724 by reporting the confrontation with Ms. Little to McGuire. Defendant McGuire did not follow Policy P724 in that she did not promptly notify the IRM Group Leader (Defendant Degidio) or HR of the incident as required, and did not take any other action to address Ms. Coyne’s concerns about safety in the workplace. When Defendant Degidio ultimately was made aware (by Ms. Coyne) of the report of workplace violence, he did not take steps to address the incident or Ms. Coyne’s concerns. Although Ms. Coyne also reported the incident to HR, HR failed to take any steps to investigate the report of workplace violence.

Over the next several weeks, Ms. Coyne’s work environment began to deteriorate. Whenever she spoke with her supervisors about addressing Ms. Little’s misconduct, she was discouraged from pursuing any complaint and was even told she was exaggerating the significance of the encounter.

At a meeting for the Storm Water project on January 3, 2012, Defendant Little was designated as the head of the Information Management Team, which included responsibility for other teams dealing with information technology and records issues. Ms. Little assigned Ms. Coyne and her team to manage the public storm water individual permit.

On January 9, 2012, Ms. McGuire told Ms. Coyne that she and Gail Toddings had met on January 5th with two ADEP managers, Dave McInroy and Craig Douglas. According to McGuire, McInroy and Douglas had told them that they would take over the inquiry about Ms. Coyne’s report of workplace violence. Ms. Coyne asked whether the Security office or HR were involved, and McGuire responded that they were not at that time. Ms. Coyne also asked whether McGuire had reported the incident to Defendant Degidio, their Group Leader, and McGuire said that she had not, but would do that.

Ms. Coyne heard nothing further about any investigation of the assault until January 13, 2012, when Craig Douglas came to her office. Douglas said that he had directed her customer, Steve Veenis, to speak with her and asked whether that had happened. Ms. Coyne said no, that no one was speaking with her about the incident. She told Mr. Douglas what she had previously reported about the assault. 7

By this time, Defendant Little had become aware that Ms. Coyne had reported her misconduct to McGuire. Little continued to exclude Ms. Coyne from important meetings relating to the Storm Water project, which undermined Ms. Coyne’s ability to support the project, and even misrepresented to her that scheduled meetings had been canceled. A week later, Ms. Little reassigned responsibility for the public website – which she had assigned to Ms. Coyne on January 3rd – to another employee without consulting with or notifying Ms. Coyne.

In the middle of January 2012, Ms. Coyne again met with Defendant McGuire and told her that she was not feeling comfortable at work, that she was having trouble sleeping at night, and was not eating well. She told her that she was experiencing nightmares about Little’s attack and McGuire’s failure to do anything about it. McGuire snapped at Ms. Coyne and asked what she expected her to do about it; Ms. Coyne responded that she wanted LANL to follow its policies by investigating the incident and arranging for some kind of resolution. McGuire responded that she was tired of hearing Ms. Coyne’s complaints and that she should deal with Ms. Little herself. Ms. Coyne said that she did not feel comfortable or safe doing that and asked McGuire to request HR to get involved. McGuire refused.

After McGuire refused to contact HR, Ms. Coyne did so herself, but was told that there was nothing HR could do, that mediation is a voluntary process, and HR could not compel anyone to participate.

Ms. Coyne’s anxiety about the workplace only grew worse with the failure of her supervisors and HR to address her workplace concerns or even to investigate the matter. In late January 2012, she spoke with her primary care provider who referred her to a therapist and suggested that Ms. Coyne take some time away from work. 8

Ms. Coyne went to Occupational Medicine (“OccMed”), which concurred with her primary care provider’s recommendation that she take some time off under the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Ms. Coyne was provided with FMLA paperwork.

Ms. Coyne completed the FMLA paperwork and brought it to Defendant Degidio for his signature on or about February 1, 2012. Degidio expressed his surprise and asked for an explanation. Ms. Coyne told him about Ms. Little’s assault and the failure of anyone to address her concerns. He stated that this was the first he had heard about the incident. Degidio said he would arrange a meeting for himself and Ms. Coyne with HR and Security, but never did so.

Ms. Coyne commenced her FMLA leave on February 6, 2012.

On February 21, 2012, Ms. Coyne returned to LANL for a meeting that she had requested with Defendant Degidio to discuss her imminent return to work on a part-time basis. Instead, Degidio berated her about her reaction to the incident with Ms. Little. He told her that neither he nor others in management believed that she was experiencing any trauma from the confrontation with Ms. Little that warranted being on FMLA leave, and that if she was taking FMLA leave simply because she had not gotten her way that perhaps she should be subjected to a fitness-for-duty evaluation. He said that there were consequences for the choices she had made including her calls to HR and taking FMLA leave. Degidio told Ms. Coyne that she needed to drop her complaints about Ms. Little and repeatedly stated that her “actions have consequences.”

On February 27, 2012, Ms. Coyne went to her office to meet with Mr. Veenis and her team. Upon her arrival, Ms. Coyne was accosted by Defendant Degidio, accompanied by a security officer. Degidio told her that she had to leave the premises immediately because she had not been cleared by OccMed to return to work. 9

On February 29, 2012, Ms. Coyne returned to work with her clearance from OccMed. She was intercepted in the building’s foyer by Defendant McGuire, who told her she needed to wait there for Defendant Degidio.

When Mr. Degidio arrived, the three of them walked to McGuire’s office where they were met by an ADEP building security officer. Degidio told Ms. Coyne that she was being removed from her previous position at the request of her customer, Mr. Veenis. She was told not to communicate with her team or with anyone who worked in the Pueblo Building. Ms. Coyne was allowed to pack up her personal belongings from her work space under the scrutiny of the security officer and Mr. Degidio, and was then escorted from the building. She was told that she was not permitted to reenter the Pueblo Building without prior permission from Defendant McGuire and without an escort. She was told not to return to work for the rest of the week and to report to the Division office on March 5, 2012.

On March 5, 2012, Ms. Coyne returned to LANL and reported to Degidio at the Division office. Ms. Coyne complained about her mistreatment and requested to return to her position with her team. Mr. Degidio told her she was being temporarily reassigned, that she was not being disciplined, that she was still a manager and a team leader, and that she was still getting the same rate of pay so “what’s the difference.” He reiterated that she was not to go to the Pueblo Building or to communicate with her team or with anyone else there without permission, and told her she needed to “let this go.”

For the next five weeks, Ms. Coyne was left to sit at a desk in the Otowi Building, IRM-Division Office in an isolated area with a broken phone and no computer. She spent time reorganizing her own files because she was given no other work to do. The only other person in the vicinity was another displaced IRM employee. It was torturous for Ms. Coyne to come to work every day having nothing to do.

Ms. Coyne tried to approach her IRM division leader Jim Harding to ask if there was any work she could do. Before she could even ask, Harding sternly told her that he “doesn’t know anything,” that he didn’t want to, and that Ms. Coyne was not to disturb anyone.

Ms. Coyne spoke with Degidio on several occasions about returning to her previous position. His story kept changing. First, he told her that Steve Veenis had asked that she be reassigned. Mr. Veenis subsequently denied this. Then Degidio said that Gail McGuire and Gail Toddings had removed her from the team. Finally, he said that her removal was a directive from Associate Director, Michael Graham.

On or about April 10, 2012, Ms. Coyne was assigned to a temporary part-time position at Central Training. Unbeknownst to her, however, Mr. Degidio had misrepresented to the Central Training Chief of Staff, Mindy Mendez, that Ms. Coyne was proficient in using their electronic system, SharePoint. Contrary to Mr. Degidio’s representation, Ms. Coyne had never been trained to do data entry using SharePoint. Of course, Ms. Coyne could have received the necessary training in SharePoint during the five weeks that she was marooned without an assignment at the IRM Division office, but she was not offered such training. When Ms. Mendez discovered that Ms. Coyne was not proficient in SharePoint, Ms. Coyne explained that she had been in a managerial position for several years supervising others who did data entry using a different system, but that she was doing her best to learn the SharePoint system on the job. It was at this time that Ms. Mendez revealed to Ms. Coyne that Defendant Degidio had misrepresented her qualifications and training. 11

On May 22, 2012, Ms. Coyne was cleared to return to work for 27 hours per week, but she was told that there was only enough funding to support 24 hours. Eventually three more hours of work were found for her.

On or about May 16, 2012, Ms. Coyne received a draft of her Mid-Year review for the period from October 1, 2011 through March 31, 2012. She met with Defendant Degidio concerning negative comments in the review, particularly concerning her reaction to the attack by Defendant Little in December 2011. She learned at that meeting that Degidio had changed her Classification/Title (Peer Group) from “Manager/Team Leader” to “Document Control Analyst 3” (a non-managerial position). Ms. Coyne had not received any advance notice of this change and had no opportunity to object to it in violation of LANL Policy P736. When she objected, Mr. Degidio told her the DCA3 categorization more closely matched the job assignment he had found for her in April 2012.

Mr. Degidio’s comments on Ms. Coyne’s Mid-Year review were finalized by June 5, 2012, and Ms. Coyne had thirty days to submit her comments on the review. At a meeting with Degidio on June 5th, he told her that the review was not that bad, that it was only a mid-year evaluation, and therefore it did not mean much. Ms. Coyne asked what would happen when she was ready to return to work full-time. Degidio told her that she would be brought back part-time if full-time work was not available. Ms. Coyne protested that she had a right to return to her previous position or to an equivalent position when she returned to full-time status. Degidio disagreed and said that he had told her he was going to change her classification. At the end of the meeting, Degidio said: “This is it. No more talk about your work situation or about why you are where you are.” 12

Ms. Coyne requested and received from HR an extension of time until July 11, 2012 to submit her comments on the Mid-Year review. When she submitted her comments on July 10, 2012, however, Defendant Degidio refused to include them in the Mid-Year Performance review.

On June 28, 2012, Ms. Coyne was cleared by OccMed to return to work on a full-time basis. At that time, LANL Procedure P730-13 relating to Family and Medical Leave was in effect. Pursuant to Procedure P730-13, paragraph 3.8.1, as well as pursuant to federal law, LANS was required to return Ms. Coyne to the same position as the one she occupied prior to taking FMLA leave or to an equivalent position with equivalent pay and benefits. LANS did not do so.

On or about July 11, 2012, Ms. Coyne was summoned to another meeting with Mr. Degidio. He told her that her work at Central Training was not satisfactory and that he would be preparing a Memorandum of Expectations to improve her job performance. No Memorandum of Expectations was ever given to her.

On or about July 17, 2012, Ms. Coyne met with Karen Doak, the HR Employee Relations Group Leader, concerning LANL’s failure to return her to the same or an equivalent position. Ms. Doak informed Ms. Coyne that she was “unable to substantiate your allegation that your FMLA rights have been violated.”

On July 24, 2012, Ms. Coyne requested permission to attend a demonstration of ADEP’s SharePoint DCRM system, which would have increased Ms. Coyne’s familiarity with the system and her work productivity for her temporary assignment at Central Training. Mr. Degidio told her that because the training was job-related she should be permitted to attend. 13

However, because the training was to be conducted at the Pueblo Complex, from which she had been barred, Ms. Coyne needed permission from Gail McGuire to attend.

On July 25, 2012, Defendant McGuire denied Ms. Coyne’s request to attend the training.

On July 27, 2012, pursuant to LANL Policy P791, Ms. Coyne filed a formal written complaint with the Human Resources-Complaint Resolution Program (“HR-CRP”) protesting the failure of LANS to return her to the same or an equivalent position upon her return to work on a full-time basis on June 28, 2012. The Complaint also challenged Defendant McGuire’s decision denying her permission to attend the SharePoint training.

On August 2, 2012, HR-CRP denied Ms. Coyne’s complaint.

Ms. Coyne filed an appeal of the August 2, 2012 decision, but that appeal was denied on August 22, 2012.

On September 4, 2012, Mr. Degidio summoned Ms. Coyne to a meeting and instructed her to pack up her personal belongings and to remove them from Central Training. Ms. Coyne was very upset and after clearing out her office, she went home and took FMLA leave for the rest of the week. When she returned to work a week later, she was moved to another location at SM30, but was given no work to do.

On November 7, 2012, Ms. Coyne met with Mr. Degidio to review her end-of-year evaluation for the period from October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012. The proposed evaluation rated Ms. Coyne’s performance in various ranges between “Fully Meets Expectations” to “Falls Below Expectations.” Her overall performance was rated “Unsatisfactory.” 14

In that review, Mr. Degidio reported that Ms. Coyne’s performance and behavior over the past year was “unsatisfactory and unacceptable as a laboratory employee.” During his November 7, 2012, meeting with Ms. Coyne, Degidio also repeated his doubts with respect to the effects on Ms. Coyne of the assault in December 2011, stating that he did not believe she had been traumatized by Ms. Little’s behavior and indicating that she was untruthful, dishonest, and lacked integrity.

For the next several months, Ms. Coyne continued to report to work, but continued to be given no work to do. Ms. Coyne experienced continuing stress and poor health as a result of her treatment at work.

On March 21, 2013, LANS issued revision 5 to P713-1, its Reduction in Force policy, which was effective the same day.

On March 27, 2013, Ms. Coyne was called into a meeting with Jim Harding, Mr. Degidio, a representative from HR, and a security officer and was informed that her employment with the Los Alamos National Laboratory was being terminated effective April 26, 2013, pursuant to the revised Reduction in Force policy.

Defendant, LANS, is responsible for the actions of those Defendants who are its agents or employees under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

COUNT I

Breach of Contract (LANS)

Plaintiffs re-allege all allegations in paragraphs 1-59 of this Complaint as if fully set forth herein.

As a LANL employee, the terms and conditions of Ms. Coyne’s employment were governed in whole or in part by LANL and DOE personnel, human resources, and safety and security policies, procedures and regulations, and LANS’ course of conduct regarding the same.

LANS’ wrongful acts performed by its managerial and supervisory personnel as pled in this Complaint constitute breaches of the contract of employment with Ms. Coyne. These include but are not limited to failure to follow policies and procedures and course of conduct relating to:

  • Safety in the workplace;
  • Violence in the workplace;
  • Workplace decorum and behavior;
  • Harassment;
  • Retaliation;
  • Employee benefits; and
  • Performing a competent, unbiased, and comprehensive investigation.

As a direct, foreseeable, and proximate result of the breaches of contract as alleged herein, Ms. Coyne has suffered and continues to suffer damages of a type and amount to be proven at trial.

COUNT II

Breach of Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing (LANS)

Plaintiffs re-allege all allegations in paragraphs 1-63 of this Complaint as if fully set forth herein.

LANS’ wrongful acts performed by its managerial and supervisory personnel in an effort to deprive Ms. Coyne from enjoying the benefits of her contract with LANS were done willfully, in bad faith, with wanton disregard or their impact on Ms. Coyne without justification, cause or privilege to do so and constitute a violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing owed to Ms. Coyne by LANS.

As a direct, foreseeable and proximate result of LANS’ breaches of its covenant of good faith and fair dealing with Ms. Coyne, she has suffered and continues to suffer, damages of a type and amount to be proven at trial.

COUNT III

Willful Interference and Retaliation (LANS, Degidio)

Plaintiffs re-allege all allegations in paragraphs 1-66 of this Complaint as if fully set forth herein.

LANS is a covered employer under the FMLA and is subject to its provisions. Ms. Coyne was an eligible employee for FMLA leave and was entitled to take FMLA leave. Ms. Coyne properly gave notice of her intent to take FMLA leave.

The decision by LANS, by and through its employees, agents, and representatives, including Defendant Degidio, to reassign Ms. Coyne during her FMLA leave or her intermittent FMLA leave was willful interference with or in reckless disregard for her right to take such leave and was made in retaliation for Ms. Coyne’s assertion of her rights under the FMLA.

The decision by LANS, by and through its employees, agents, and representatives, including Defendant Degidio, not to return Ms. Coyne to her prior position or to an equivalent position upon her return to full-time employment from FMLA leave, and to demote her from a manager classification to a non-manager classification, was willful interference with or in reckless disregard for her right to take such leave and was made in retaliation for Ms. Coyne’s assertion of her rights under the FMLA. 17

The decision by LANS, by and through its employees, agents and representatives, including Defendant Degidio, to terminate Ms. Coyne from her employment was willful interference with or in reckless disregard for her right to take FMLA leave and was made in willful retaliation for her assertion of her rights under the FMLA.

As a direct, foreseeable and proximate result of the aforesaid acts and/or omissions of Defendants, Ms. Coyne has suffered and continues to suffer, damages of type and amount to be proven at trial, including but not limited to lost wages, lost benefits, and loss of future earning capacity.

The actions of Defendants were malicious, willful, reckless, wanton, fraudulent, or in bad faith, thereby entitling Ms. Coyne to an award of liquidated damages in the sum of double her lost wages and interest.

COUNT IV

Retaliation (LANS, Degidio, McGuire)

Plaintiffs re-allege all allegations in paragraphs 1-73 of this Complaint as if fully set forth herein.

In performing the actions as set out above, including but not limited to reporting harassment and violence in the workplace, and in insisting upon an investigation of harassment and violence that she experienced in the workplace, Ms. Coyne made disclosures required by Department of Energy rules and regulations, and by LANL procedures, and for the benefit of the general public, the public fisc, and national security, which disclosures are protected at common law, under law, by LANL procedures, and as a matter of public policy.

The aforesaid protected disclosures and Ms. Coyne’s insistence that LANL policies and procedures be followed were contributing and motivating factors behind Defendants’ joint and several decisions to take adverse and/or wrongful employment actions against Ms. Coyne.

As a direct, foreseeable and proximate result of Defendants’ joint and several wrongful retaliatory actions against Ms. Coyne, she has suffered and continues to suffer damages as alleged above.

The Defendants’ joint and several wrongful acts were done willfully, in bad faith, with reckless and wanton disregard of their clearly foreseeable adverse impact upon Ms. Coyne, and as such constitute an adequate basis for an award of punitive damages in favor of Ms. Coyne.

COUNT V

Negligence (LANS, Degidio, McGuire)

Plaintiffs re-allege all allegations in paragraphs 1-78 of this Complaint as if fully set forth herein.

Defendants owed Ms. Coyne a duty of care including but not limited to a duty to reasonably:

  • Hire, promote, and assign to supervisory positions persons who do not have a history of erratic, abusive, and threatening behavior toward their subordinates and co-workers;
  • Perform the supervisory, control, and training functions to ensure that employees and supervisors do not engage in abusive, threatening and intimidating behavior, including but not limited to threats of workplace violence, threats of termination, and other adverse employment action, toward their supervisory charges and coworkers;
  • Implement and consistently follow policies and procedures to ensure a zero tolerance for threats of violence in the workplace, violence in the workplace, and angry and intimidating behavior in the workplace;
  • Implement and consistently follow policies and procedures to ensure employees are not retaliated against in any manner for bringing to the attention of LANS incidents reasonably perceived as threats or violence in the workplace, violence in the workplace, and angry and intimidating behavior in the workplace;
  • Ensure that LANS’ contractual obligations to Ms. Coyne involving employment are implemented;
  • Ensure that Ms. Coyne’s supervisors are properly trained regarding and act in compliance with LANL’s policies and procedures;
  • Perform a competent, unbiased and comprehensive investigation of allegations of workplace violence and of retaliation.

The wrongful acts and omissions of the LANS managers, supervisors, employees, agents, and contractors, as set forth and referenced above, constitute breaches of the Defendants’ duty of care owed to Ms. Coyne.

As a proximate and foreseeable result of such negligent acts and omissions by Defendants, Ms. Coyne has suffered termination of her employment, loss of earnings, loss of job advancement, loss of reputation, extreme embarrassment, anxiety, physical pain, humiliation, severe emotional distress and mental anguish, and will continue to suffer these damages and injuries, among others, in kind and in an amount to be proven at trial. Because the acts taken toward Ms. Coyne were carried out by the LANS management, supervisors, and other employees acting in an outrageous, callous and reckless manner, Ms. Coyne is entitled to recover punitive damages in an amount to be proven at trial.

COUNT VI

Tortious Interference (Degidio, McGuire, Little)

Plaintiffs re-allege all allegations in paragraphs 1-82 of this Complaint as if fully set forth herein.

Defendants Degidio, McGuire, and Little, jointly and severally, intentionally interfered with the contractual relations between Ms. Coyne and LANS, with an improper motive or by improper means, without justification or privilege.

As a direct, foreseeable and proximate result of the aforesaid acts and/or omissions of Defendants Degidio, McGuire, and Little, Ms. Coyne has suffered and continues to suffer, severe emotional distress, monetary damages, and other damages in an amount to be proven at trial.

These Defendants’ wrongful acts were done willfully, in bad faith, with reckless and wanton disregard of their clearly foreseeable adverse impact upon Ms. Coyne, and as such constitute adequate basis for an award of punitive damages in favor of Ms. Coyne.

COUNT VII

Wrongful Termination (LANS, Degidio, McGuire)

Plaintiffs re-allege all allegations in paragraphs 1-86 of this Complaint as if fully set forth herein.

The fact that Ms. Coyne had requested and required accommodations in the workplace for her serious medical condition, and/or that Ms. Coyne had insisted that LANL policies and procedures be followed were contributing and motivating factors behind Defendants’ decision to terminate her employment. Ms. Coyne was treated differently in connection with the termination than other workers who did not suffer from serious medical conditions and/or did not insist that LANL policies and procedures be followed.

Ms. Coyne was discharged in violation of public policy, as embodied in state and federal statutes and regulations governing workplace accommodations for serious medical conditions and prohibiting retaliation against workers who insist that workplace policies and procedures be followed.

As a direct and proximate result of Defendants’ actions, Ms. Coyne has been injured and is entitled to compensatory damages for lost wages, past and future, lost benefits, past and future, emotional suffering and injury, loss of enjoyment of life, expenses of securing new employment, and damages from the stigma of having to report to others that she had been terminated from employment with LANL.

Defendants’ actions in terminating Ms. Coyne under the circumstances were intentional, willful, malicious, wanton and/or in reckless disregard of her rights, entitling Ms. Coyne to punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial herein, to punish the Defendants and to deter the Defendants and others from future misconduct.

COUNT VIII

Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress (All Defendants)

Plaintiffs re-allege all allegations in paragraphs 1-91 of this Complaint as if fully set forth herein.

The acts complained of herein constitute extreme and outrageous conduct undertaken with intent to cause, or with a reckless disregard of the substantial probability of causing, severe emotional distress to Ms. Coyne, and these acts did in fact cause severe emotional distress to Ms. Coyne. Defendants’ actions were so outrageous that they exceed the bounds tolerated by society.

Defendants jointly and severally intended through their outrageous conduct to cause Ms. Coyne severe emotional distress.

As a direct, foreseeable and proximate result of the Defendants’ actions, Ms. Coyne has suffered and continues to suffer, severe emotional distress, monetary damages, and other damages in an amount to be proven at trial.

The Defendants’ wrongful acts were done willfully, in bad faith, with reckless and wanton disregard of their clearly foreseeable adverse impact upon Ms. Coyne, and as such constitute an adequate basis for an award of punitive damages in favor of Ms. Coyne.

COUNT IX

Assault (Little)

Plaintiffs re-allege all allegations in paragraphs 1-96 of this Complaint as if fully set forth herein.

Defendant Little’s actions confronting Ms. Coyne in her office were intended to create, and did create, a reasonable apprehension in Ms. Coyne of immediate harmful or offensive contact to her person.

As a direct, foreseeable and proximate result of the Defendant’s actions, Ms. Coyne has suffered and continues to suffer, severe emotional distress, monetary damages, and other damages in an amount to be proven at trial.

Ms. Coyne is entitled to punitive damages against Defendant because the actions of Defendant Little were willful, wanton, malicious and/or in reckless disregard of Ms. Coyne’s rights.

COUNT X

Loss of Consortium (All Defendants)

Plaintiffs re-allege all allegations in paragraphs 1-100 of this Complaint as if fully set forth herein.

 The injuries to Ms. Coyne as alleged above resulted in financial damages and emotional distress to Mr. Coyne due to the loss of the society and companionship of his wife during the time of Ms. Coyne’s continued employment from December 2011 to the date of her termination and continuing thereafter due to the Defendants’ behavior toward Ms. Coyne. Mr. Coyne was obliged to tend to the needs of his wife at home and to accompany her on numerous visits to medical care providers as well as on other errands throughout the day. As a result, Mr. Coyne lost income from his own business in order to care for the needs of his wife. Additionally, Mr. Coyne is entitled to recover the reasonable value of those services in the home that his wife was unable to provide during this period.

PRAYER FOR RELIEF

WHEREFORE, Plaintiffs request that the Court:

  • Enter judgment against all Defendants;
  • Award Plaintiffs compensatory damages against the Defendants in an amount to be determined at trial;
  • Award Plaintiff Suzanne Coyne liquidated damages against the Defendants as provided by law in an amount to be determined at trial;
  • Award Plaintiff Suzanne Coyne punitive damages against the Defendants in an amount to be determined at trial;
  • Award Plaintiffs their reasonable attorney’s fees, expenses, and costs as provided by law;
  • Award pre-judgment and post-judgment interest; and
  • Award such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.

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