Appeals court orders new hearing in FSH employment case

The state Mental Health Department has sovereign immunity and can’t be sued for monetary damages in a worker’s compensation case, the Missouri Court of Appeals in Kansas City ruled Tuesday.

But a three-judge panel also ruled that a group of 16 Fulton State Hospital employees and former employees can go to court on other grounds, including asking for an injunction to prevent retaliation and a court-order reinstating all employees who’d been dismissed illegally.

Susan Wyman of Mokane and the other 15 FSH employees filed their lawsuit Oct. 14, 2010, in the Callaway County circuit court, alleging that Marty Martin-Foreman, the hospital’s chief operating officer, retaliated against them for filing various worker’s compensation claims.

They argued the retaliation included demotions and job reassignments, and told the court those job actions were part of a pattern of harassment, intimidation and coercion.

They asked the court to order monetary damages for each of the plaintiffs, and to prohibit the department “from removing and/or relocating employees that exercise his/her rights under the Missouri Worker’s Compensation Law, and to reinstate any and all persons, including but not limited to Plaintiffs, who have been discriminated against for exercising his/her rights under the worker’s compensation Law.”

On June 1, 2011, Judge Jodie C. Asel dismissed the case “without prejudice” — meaning plaintiffs could bring another lawsuit on the same issues — agreeing with the state Mental Health department and Martin-Foreman that they had sovereign immunity.

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