Judges awards ex-worker more than $200K in case
Henry claimed QuickFlight Inc. didn’t give her support
A Martinsburg woman who lost her job with a service company at the Altoona-Blair County Airport has been awarded more than $200,000 by a federal judge in Johnstown because, she claimed, her company refused to support her during an ongoing dispute with the airport manager.
Kelly C. Henry was the station manager for QuickFlight Inc. of Toldeo, Ohio, a business that handled ground-based services for Silver Airlines.
In 2013 and 2014, Silver provided flights from the Martinsburg-based airport.
The airline employed QuickFlight to provide ticketing services, gate operations, baggage handling and interior cleaning of its airplanes.
Henry was the manager of Quickflight when Tim Hite of Altoona, a retired FAA employee, served as airport manager on behalf of the Blair County Airport Authority.
According to a federal lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court in Johnstown, the relationship between Henry and Hite was strained by Hite’s alleged refusal to deal with female employees and his “false complaints” about Henry’s job performance.
Henry complained to QuickFlight about the airport manager’s alleged sexual discrimination, and, as she charged, “QuickFlight did nothing to stop Mr. Hite’s discrimination and harassment.”
Finally, on March 6, 2014, Henry met with QuickFlight’s Human Resources manager and regional director who terminated her, noting it was “a business decision,” not based on her performance as QuickFlight manager.
Her lawsuit, filed by State College attorneys Philip K. Miles III and Madison V. Greenland, was against QuickFlight.
“Instead of protecting their employee from harassment and discrimination, QuickFlight retaliated against (Henry) and fired her at the request of her harasser.”
She filed complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and received permission to sue last year.
In December, she filed the lawsuit in Johnstown.
QuickFlight never answered the lawsuit, and after a hearing this week, U.S. District Judge Kim R. Gibson entered a default judgment on behalf of Henry in the amount of $208,357.
She was awarded:
— $33,357 in lost wages and benefits.
— $75,000 for emotional trauma caused by her dismissal.
— $100,000 in punishment damages “to deter similar conduct in the future,” according to Gibson’s ruling issued late Tuesday.
Henry’s attorneys had requested damages in the amount of $338,377, but despite the lower amount approved by Gibson, Miles stated that Kelly Henry had been “vindicated.”
Henry charged that QuickFlight retaliated against her because Hite was threatening to not renew Silver’s contract for air services unless Henry and another employee were terminated.
Also, she sued under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act, charging a hostile work environment.
Hite was not sued, and when contacted by the Altoona Mirror on Wednesday, he said didn’t know he had been mentioned in the federal lawsuit.
“I never said one harsh word about her,” he said, but, he pointed out that as QuickFlight manager, he was constantly contacting Henry because the airlines and QuickFlight were not performing up to snuff.
Hite reported that it was a difficult time for the airport, which was losing passengers, and, he stressed, the reason why the numbers were down had to do with late flights, and, sometimes, a shortage of pilots.
Silver, which was eventually replaced by Southern Airways Express, was late in paying its rent to the authority and its fuel bills, and Henry, whose job it was to provide passenger figures on a monthly basis, was not being prompt with her reports, Hite said.
He said the documents were needed on a timely basis, and he told her, “I shouldn’t have to call you every month.”
The lawsuit charged that the reason for her termination by QuickFlight was her relationship with Hite.
The tension between the manager and QuickFlight was the focus of an exhibit attached to the lawsuit in which Kelly reported to her employer that she overhead Hite in his office telling someone (she didn’t know who) that until QuickFlight fired Henry and another employee, he would not support Silver coming into the airport.
“I am hoping I can get some help in resolving some of these issues,” she emailed to QuickFlight.
Hite reported that it took seven months of effort to straighten things out with Silver Airlines and QuickFight.
He said he is no longer the airport manager, but he does some consulting work.
QuickFlight, which no longer has ties to the Altoona-Blair airport, did not reply to a call to its Toledo headquarters for comment.