Federal Lawsuit Alleges Discrimination, Retaliation by Lexington-Fayette County Health Department

Lexington, Ky. – Jeremy Gayheart, a registered nurse residing in Scott County, has filed a lawsuit against the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and Kentucky State Law. The lawsuit claims disability discrimination, sex discrimination, and retaliation against Gayheart, who asserts that his termination was unjust.

According to the lawsuit, Gayheart began working for the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department in August 2022 and consistently met or exceeded the employer’s expectations. It is stated that Gayheart has multiple disabilities, including clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, esophageal spasms, and post-traumatic stress disorder, which substantially impact his major life activities.

The lawsuit alleges that in September 2022, before taking paternity leave, Gayheart informed his employer about his disabilities and the need for accommodations due to medical treatment and workplace restrictions. While on paternity leave, Gayheart also experienced the passing of his grandfather, which he communicated to the defendant.

Surprisingly, on September 14, 2022, just before his scheduled return from paternity leave, Gayheart received a termination notice citing excessive absences from work as the reason. The lawsuit claims that this termination was in violation of the ADA and Title VII, as it was allegedly influenced by Gayheart’s disabilities and his utilization of paternity leave.

Gayheart’s lawsuit further contends that the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department failed to provide reasonable accommodations for his disabilities, subjected him to disparate treatment, and engaged in sex discrimination by terminating him for utilizing paternity leave. The complaint argues that these actions by the defendant were intentional, willful, and in violation of Gayheart’s rights protected under the ADA, Title VII, and Kentucky State Law.

As a result of the alleged unlawful actions by the defendant, Gayheart claims to have suffered damages. The requested relief includes reinstatement to his former position with the associated salary and seniority level, or front pay if reinstatement is not feasible. Gayheart is also seeking compensation for lost wages, benefits, and other monetary losses incurred due to the termination. Additionally, he is pursuing compensatory and punitive damages for the violations of the ADA, Title VII, and Kentucky State Law. The lawsuit also seeks attorney’s fees, costs, and pre- and post-judgment interest.

Biesecker Dutkanych & Macer, LLC, legal counsel representing Jeremy Gayheart, submitted the complaint to the court seeking a judgment in favor of the plaintiff and the requested relief outlined in the lawsuit.

The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department has not yet publicly responded to the allegations made in the lawsuit.

In another recent development within the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, the dismissal of the former health commissioner, Dr. Sheila Owens-Collins, just three months into her role, has further fueled speculation and concerns. The Board of Health held an executive session at their May 9 meeting to discuss the terms of a settlement with Dr. Owens-Collins following her departure. However, details surrounding the settlement were not disclosed to the public.

It was later reported by LEX18 that the board reached an agreement on the terms of the settlement after learning of Dr. Owens-Collins’ intention to file a lawsuit. The termination of the commissioner, coupled with the previous vacancy in the position since Dr. Joel McCullough’s resignation in July 2022, has prompted calls for increased transparency from some health department employees who are seeking a clearer understanding of the circumstances surrounding these events.