A Winston County woman has filed a civil lawsuit in federal court against an Ackerman hospital and two individual employees, claiming she was sexually harassed during her time as an employee.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 2 in the United States District Court in Jackson, 47-year-old Laura Cistrunk, a former certified nursing assistant, is suing Choctaw Regional Medical Center in Ackerman, along with individually naming hospital employees Jimmie Owens and Monette Pearson as defendants.
The 15-bed hospital is managed by Kentucky-based Trilogy Health Services.
Cistrunk was hired as a nursing assistant in March 2014, and in March 2018 an incident occurred involving sexually-explicit comments reportedly made by two maintenance men aimed at Cistrunk that were later reported to hospital administrators.
The comments were listed in the lawsuit and are sexual in nature, but deemed by the Starkville Daily News to be inappropriate for publication.
After the comments were made, Cistrunk approached Owens a few weeks later in his role as director of Human Resources, but claims the sexual harassment only intensified.
The complaint states that when Cistrunk reported the incident to Owens, he responded verbally in an inappropriate, sexually-explicit way.
Despite reporting the incident involving the maintenance men, Cistrunk asserts that in the weeks and months following her initial complaint to Owens, the HR director continued to jokingly refer back to the lewd comments initially made by the maintenance workers.
Cistrunk’s legal counsel claims Owens has “a history of flirting with women and at one point in the past was inappropriately rubbing a female employee’s back.”
Later that year, in December 2018, Cistrunk was written up by Owens for not performing her duties “in a timely manner,” to which she claims occurred when her unit was short staffed.
The hospital’s Director of Nursing, Pearson, was allegedly aware that Cistrunk was working alone and would not be able to handle all of her normal duties.
However, Cistrunk claims she was written up anyways.
This was not the only reprimand she received, though. Cistrunk claims Owens, in an effort to substantiate the write-up, informed her he was writing her up for an incident that occurred, according to him, in March 2018.
The incident brought up by Owens allegedly involved Cistrunk being asked to help find a swing bed for a patient — a request Owens claimed she ignored.
Following the two reprimands, Cistrunk says she was placed on a 90-day probation period, but went to meet with the hospital’s CEO Jamie Rodgers the next day, where she informed him about the incident with the maintenance men and how she felt bullied and harassed by numerous hospital administrators.
Cistrunk claims Rodgers told her “I don’t want you to leave, you’re one of my star employees.”
The complaint goes on to say Rodgers assured Cistrunk he would investigate the matters, but on the following day, Cistrunk was fired.
According to the lawsuit, Cistrunk is suing for sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, a sexually hostile work environment, retaliation and tortious interference with employment.
Cistrunk is asking a jury award her reinstatement or future wages in lieu of reinstatement, back pay, lost benefits, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees and other court costs.
She is represented by attorney Louis H. Watson of Jackson-based law firm Watson & Norris.
The Starkville Daily News has reached out to Choctaw Regional Medical Center for comment, but had not received a response by press time Sunday.