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Scales of Justice

A former security guard at the now-nonexistent Mountain View Regional Hospital has filed a federal lawsuit against the facility, alleging she was passed over for a promotion and later fired because she is a woman.

The woman, Margaret Kozar, alleges in the lawsuit filed last month that she was not promoted to lead security officer at the east Casper hospital, a job she claims in the suit she was already performing anyway. The suit was filed by Casper attorney Jeremy Hugus and, according to court records, seeks $1 million in damages.

Mountain View was a physician-owned hospital until last spring, when it was purchased by Wyoming Medical Center. WMC is not a named defendant in the suit, and the discrimination that Kozar alleges took place in 2017, a year before the deal shuttered Mountain View.

It’s unclear if WMC is on the hook for any liability related to the suit. Hugus did not return two messages left at his office last week. A WMC spokeswoman noted that “all of (Kozar’s) accusations arose from events that occurred prior to the date on which Wyoming Medical Center purchased” Mountain View. Asked if WMC would be liable in the suit, the spokeswoman said the hospital declined to comment further.

In the lawsuit, Kozar alleges that she was hired as a certified nursing assistant at Mountain View in 2010. Because Kozar had a law enforcement background, the suit claims, she became a security officer at the facility in January 2012 and was paid hourly. The suit claims she regularly received positive performance reviews from her superiors at the hospital, and that she was regarded as the lead security officer.

In early 2017, according to the suit, new management at Mountain View required employees to apply for positions they held. Kozar applied for lead security officer but was not hired for the salaried position in summer 2017.

In her suit, Kozar claims Thomas Kopitnik, one of the founding physicians of Mountain View, told her that the hospital “wanted a male for the lead security officer.”

Reached by phone and then shown the lawsuit by email last week, Kopitnik said he was surprised to hear the allegations and that he “had no recollection” of gender playing a part in any employment discussion at the hospital. The doctor, who is not a defendant in the lawsuit, later said via email that he was terminated from Mountain View in March 2017 and “was not aware of any discussions regarding (Kozar’s) position up to that time.”

“I was never part of any discussions regarding Ms. Kozar that have been mentioned in the complaint,” he continued. “I found her to be a valuable employee during my time at MVRH.”

The lawsuit goes on to allege that the creation of the application for the lead security officer was simply to replace Kozar with a younger — Kozar was in her late 40s — and male employee. Kozar was fired later in 2017, according to the suit, and had received what the suit characterizes as an unusual reprimand for parking the security truck in an area she was previously told she could leave it.

Kozar was treated to a higher standard than her male peers, according to the lawsuit, and after she was fired, the hospital allegedly terminated its only other female security officer. The person hired to be security officer was, according to the suit, a man younger than Kozar. The suit alleges elsewhere that Kozar was “bullied” by the hospital’s human resources manager, who allegedly used profanity and accused Kozar of lying on her resume.

Mountain View has ceased to operate as an independent hospital. It has been turned into an east campus for WMC. None of the officials named in the lawsuit currently work for the hospital.

The suit is one of several facing Mountain View. With the exception of the Kozar action, the rest — roughly a half-dozen — are malpractice allegations against a single former Mountain View neurosurgeon, Mahesh Karandikar. It’s similarly unclear if WMC is liable in those cases.

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Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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