WILLIAMSON — A Mingo County man claims he was wrongfully fired after he tried to distance himself from his boss and romantic partner.
Joseph Venturino filed his complaint in Mingo Circuit Court against Logan-Mingo Area Health Inc. and Donna J. Cooke.
According to the complaint, Venturino began working for Logan-Mingo in June 2018. Cooke was his supervisor. Soon after, he and Cooke began a mutual romantic relationship. He says the relationship intensified, and they took several trips together, including to the Greenbrier Resort and to a Logan County Chamber of Commerce event.
He also says Cooke eventually “became borderline obsessed” with him.
“Cooke advised plaintiff to convert his persona phone under the control of the company, which (he) later learned provided defendant Cooke access to all work related and personal phone data of which she would frequently review,” the complaint states. “Cooke threatened to fire plaintiff on one instance when he spoke with another female employed with defendant Logan-Mingo.
“On another instance, defendant Cooke would text plaintiff screenshot pictures of females plaintiff interacted with on social media while making comments about the picture. … Cooke expressed deep displeasure with plaintiff’s interactions with employees whom she believed plaintiff had prior relationships.”
Venturino says he began to distance himself from Cooke, fearing she was becoming irrational and that she could adversely affect his employment.
“Soon after this social distancing began to occur, plaintiff began to receive negative comments about his employment,” the complaint states.
On March 19, 2020, Venturino learned he was being fired. He says the Human Resources representative didn’t know why he was being fired. Cooke said it was for insubordination without providing further details.
“Cooke’s reasoning was a mere pretext for the real reason plaintiff was terminated: he no longer wished to be engaged with defendant Cooke,” the complaint states.
Venturino says the defendants negligently violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act and acted in a retaliatory manner, created a hostile work environment, had negligent supervision and retention and wrongfully terminated him.
He says he has suffered and continues to suffer extreme mental anguish and suffering, loss of wages and benefits, loss of future earning capacity and benefits, loss of capacity to enjoy life, medical expenses, annoyance, inconvenience, embarrassment and aggravation.
Venturino seeks compensatory damages, punitive damages, court costs, attorney fees, pre- and post-judgment interest and other relief.
He is being represented by Nathan D. Brown and Joshua S. Ferrell of Ferrell & Brown in Williamson. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Miki Thompson.