DeTar Hospital denies any wrongdoing in wrongful firing lawsuit

Oct. 26, 2010 at 5:26 a.m.

DeTar Hospital and several employees have denied any wrongdoing in response to a wrongful firing lawsuit filed against them in September.

Austin-based attorney Michael W. Fox filed a response on behalf of his clients in federal court on Monday.

Connie Smith, the plaintiff, claimed she was fired on April 19 for "job abandonment" after taking less than a day off from work to care for her terminally ill, cancer-stricken mother during a medical emergency.

Smith claimed she was wrongfully fired by the hospital in retaliation for sexual harassment complaints she made against the company's assistant chief financial officer.

Fox represents DeTar Hospital of Victoria, Texas; DeTar's chief executive officer William Blanchard; chief operating officer George Parsley; chief financial officer Donald Hogan; and assistant chief financial officer Laurence Bludau, all of whom are being sued for their part in the firing.

"The plaintiff does not have a cause of action for intentional infliction of emotional distress," the response said.

Both DeTar spokeswoman Judith Barefield and Fox declined to comment on the case on Tuesday.

In the suit, Smith, who had worked for DeTar for more than a decade as an accountant, claimed all of DeTar's executives and director of human resources Kristina Elsik were all aware of her mother's condition.

The response admitted that Smith had informed certain employees of her mother's illness and that Bludau did in fact receive e-mails informing them that Smith had to leave early to care for her ailing mother.

Although some employees had Smith's cell phone number, nobody called to follow up with her after she left for the day, according to the response.

Additionally, the defendants also denied Smith's allegations of an improper investigation into her sexual harassment, claiming they engaged in "good faith" efforts to comply with the law.

The defendants were against awarding Smith any damages.

Smith's Houston-based attorney Mark Oberti shared his thoughts on the response.

"We stand by the factual allegations in the complaint and we look forward to vindicating Connie Smith's rights through the judicial system," said Oberti. "We look forward to Connie Smith having her day in court."



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