Glenn O. Hawbaker loses $2.2 million in wrongful termination suit

A judgment against Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. looks like it will cost the State College-based building company more than $2.2 million in damages.

According to a civil complaint filed against Hawbaker, a former employee accused the company of wrongful termination in 2016 following an injury.

The complaint, which was filed in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas in September 2016, stated that Susan Carlini, of Dubois, was employed by Hawbaker from 1992 to 2016 as an equipment operator. The complaint described the position as “a heavy active position operating heavy, material-moving construction equipment and involved in manual labor such as digging or shoveling.”

Hawbaker, however, claimed in a follow-up filing that Carlini didn’t have a consistent employment with the company during that time period.

Carlini was injured on the job April 7, 2016, the complaint said, while clearing a downed tree from a roadway, having been thrown to the ground when a branch snapped. She reportedly injured her knee, hip and back.

Hawbaker knew of these injuries, the complaint said, and Carlini sought workers’ compensation benefits in June 2016. The complaint stated she didn’t file the claim until June because she was “concerned that (the) defendant might retaliate against her if she were to file a workers’ compensation claim.”

She was placed on physical restrictions by a doctor in April 2016, the complaint said, including no standing in one position for any period of time. She was reportedly diagnosed with joint, back and knee pain by a physician in June 2016.

In that same month, Carlini was ordered to report for work in Ohio to operate a “rock truck” at a construction site, the complaint said. She reportedly advised her supervisor she was unable to operate the truck due to pain from her injury.

She was scheduled for a doctor’s visit on June 22, 2016, the complaint said, but was advised to appear at the Hawbaker human resource offices. When she appeared, she was “immediately terminated purportedly for insubordination for (her) refusal to go to Ohio and operate the rock truck.”

Carlini filed a notice of compensation payable with the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Bureau on June 29, 2016, the complaint said. The next day, however, Hawbaker filed a denial of compensation claim, saying she had not been injured at work.

“At the time the defendant knew, should have known and/or recklessly disregarded information that this statement was false,” the complaint said.

In an amended complaint filed March 2017, it was reported that Hawbaker contacted Carlini’s physician “for the purpose of insisting that her physician alter his treatment of the plaintiff.” This action, the complaint said, intruded on Carlini’s privacy by involving Hawbaker into the private physician-patient relationship.

A five-day jury trial was scheduled to begin Monday at the Centre County Courthouse Annex before county Judge Jonathan Grine. A jury’s decision was filed with the Centre County Prothonotary on Thursday outlining the jury’s findings.

According to the jury, Hawbaker did wrongfully terminate Carlini’s employment, noting that her compensation claim was a factual cause for the termination. The jury also ruled Hawbaker had invaded Carlini’s privacy and was a factual cause for harm.

The jury awarded $260,095 in lost wages and benefits as fair compensation to Carlini for damages sustained in the termination. Punitive damages imposed on Hawbaker included $1 million for wrongful termination and $1 million for invasion of privacy.

A representative for Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. could not be reached at press time.

Unlike many lawyers, Bob Warren agreed to represent sick workers at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. The pay has been low, but Warren has for 13 years handled their cases in hopes of gaining compensation from the federal government. He's

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews