Employee Sues Restek for Allegedly Creating Hostile Work Environment
An employee of Restek Corporation in Bellefonte is suing the company for allegedly violating his rights.
Timothy Hines of East Falmouth, Mass., filed the federal suit last week in U.S. Middle District Court of Pennsylvania, who Restek employed from 2012 to 2014. The suit alleges the company created a hostile work environment, violated the Family and Medical Leave Act and wrongfully terminated him. The suit also names Bryan Wolcott, company president, as a defendant.
According to the lawsuit, the company hired Hines, company vice president, to oversee its manufacturing, shipping and receiving and over time expanded his responsibilities to various other areas, including overseeing two affiliated companies, Tech-Glass and Glastron Inc.
Hines alleges the company, including founder Paul Silvis, made disparaging comments about Hines' weight to other managers on multiple occasions. Silvis is a well-known State College area businessman who is also a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees. Hines claims he reported the comments to the human resources manager, but they were not taken seriously.
"Due to stress in the workplace, (Hines) began to suffer from fatigue, chest pain, nausea, dizziness and depression" around mid-2013 for which he saw a doctor on a regular basis, the suit claims. Subsequently, Hines requested to work from home one day a week, the company reportedly approved.
Ultimately, the suit says Hines was admitted to the hospital for the medical symptoms and missed several days of work. "As soon as (Hines) returned to Restek, the symptoms also returned," the suit says. Hines doctor reportedly suggested Hines take a leave of absence from work, which he says the company granted.
Last August, Hines started his leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act, which was slated to end in November. In October, the company requested Hines attend a company meeting despite being on medical leave, the suit says. During the break, company employees reportedly called Hines numerous times for assistance.
Hines also alleges Wolcott accused him of not being out of work for a medical issue, "but instead to play golf." The company also allegedly questioned the time off by email. In October, Hines says he asked the company in an email to stop asking him to do work during medical leave.
At one point, the suit alleges, an employee entered Hines' work email account and deleted multiple emails, including emails regarding medical and benefits matters.
In November, Hines requested the medical leave be extended under the company's leave of absence policy, which began immediately and was slated to end in February.
"Due to the bullying and harassment (Hines) suffered at the hands of Wolcott and Paul Silvis, he was unable to return to work," the suit says.
In December, Hines reportedly participated in an interview with personnel administrators regarding the work environment and perceived harassment. The company still allegedly attempted to have Hines return to work without addressing the issues Hines raised and against his doctor's advice.
In February, when the extended leave was to end, the company allegedly fired Hines for failing to return documents related to the leave in a timely fashion.
"As a direct and proximate result of Restek's unlawful interference with (Hines') rights under the FMLA, (Hines) has been deprived of economic and non-economic benefits including but not limited to lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, humiliation, loss of fringe benefits and loss of enjoyment of the ordinary pleasures of life," the suit argues.
Hines is requesting a jury trial.
Restek did not return a request for comment.