Former Wayne County Clerk Sues for Discrimination, Termination Over Mask Policy

by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor, Lawrence J. Smith

A former Wayne County Sheriff’s Tax deputy alleges she was harassed, humiliated and eventually fired for following current guidelines on wearing a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sheriff Rick Thompson and the Wayne County Commission are named as co-defendants in a three-count discrimination suit filed by Patricia J. Romans.  In her complaint filed Dec. 10 in U.S. District Court, Romans, 51, and a Wayne resident, claims Thompson violated the Family and Medical Leave Act when, after after approving her leave of absence in July, he notified her via mail in October she was fired.


According to the complaint, "On March 25, 2020, Ms. Romans’ treating physician, Dr. Charles Clements, II, stated that“[d]ue to her multiple medical problems, [Ms. Romans] is at increased risk during the coronavirus pandemic. I ask that she be allowed to work from home for the next thirty days. At that time[,] the situation can be reassessed.”

Patricia Romans suffered from multiple medical conditions including COPD. 

The Defendants did not respond to Ms. Romans’ request to work at home at any time over the next 7 months."

However, the employer eventually required that she take unpaid leave. While working, though, she wore a mask. The courthouse did not enforce the CDC requirement. Some mocked her: 

"Despite the governor’s executive order and the CDC’s repeated admonitions on using masks to protect against COVID-19 infections, the Defendants only paid lip service to the order, and did not require the employees in Ms. Romans’ office to wear masks despite their working together in a confined, indoor space.

"Adding literal insult to the Defendants’ failure to enforce wearing of facial coverings in the office, Ms. Romans’ co-workers openly mocked her for wearing a mask in the office.

"One of Ms. Romans’ co-workers claimed Ms. Romans was “killing herself” by wearing a mask and refused to wear a mask, herself. 

Romans is represented by Hoyt Glazer with the Huntington law firm of Glazer, Saad and Anderson. The case is assigned to Judge Robert C. “Chuck” Chambers.


U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, case no. 3:20-cv-797