On January 27, 2014, a former employee filed a disability discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit against St. Francis Medical Center and HR manager Laura James.
The employee, who worked at the Trenton, New Jersey medical center as a materials manager for over three years, claims that he “was subjected to animosity and hostility” because of his disabilities and was terminated “in retaliation for requesting accommodations (light duty and time off from work).”
According to the complaint:
On or about March 8, 2013, Plaintiff suffered a serious work-related injury to his back.
Plaintiff filed a worker’s compensation claim in relation to his injury.
Plaintiff received worker’s compensation benefits until he returned to work in or about May 2013.
Plaintiff was placed on “light duty” upon his return to work.
Defendant Hospital’s management transferred Plaintiff to a receptionist position in response to his light duty restrictions.
Plaintiffs injury required him to miss work from in or about May until on or about June 28, 2013.
Upon Plaintiffs return to work in or about July, Defendant Individual (Laura James) met with Plaintiff to discuss his restrictions.
During the aforementioned meeting, Defendant Individual questioned what Plaintiff’s intentions were and expressed hostility towards his inability to go back to full duty. Defendant Individual further expressed a direct discriminatory animus by telling Plaintiff he was no good to the company in reference to his injury and restrictions.
Plaintiff was required to see a company doctor, who told Plaintiff that human resources did not want Plaintiff on light duty, yet the doctor kept Plaintiff on light duty.
In or about mid-December 2013, Plaintiff was cleared to return to full duty by his physician.
Defendants did not return Plaintiff to full duty and instead kept him at the receptionist desk.
On or about December 26, 2013, Plaintiff returned to work at his normally scheduled time, but found a security guard sitting at his regularly scheduled station.
When Plaintiff approached the security guard at the desk on December 26, 2013, she stated that she was surprised to see him there and that there would be nowhere for him to sit that day.
Plaintiff spoke with the security guard at the desk and a patrolling security guard…about where he was supposed to be stationed and eventually Plaintiff came to the conclusion that there was not work for him to do that day.
Plaintiff also learned that Defendant Individual and the security supervisor (Cline) were not present at work on December 26, 2013.
Plaintiff informed Avila that he would go home for the day, to which Avila did not object, and also that he would be taking a paid time off day on or about Friday, December 27, 2013.
Plaintiff returned to work on or about December 30,2013, and was terminated for leaving work on or about December 26, 2013.
When Plaintiff tried to explain the situation to Defendant Individual, Defendant Individual became irritated and told Plaintiff that his explanation did not matter because “your back is bad and you can’t do your job anyway” and “now you can take Thursday, Friday, and every other day off.”