Sunday, August 21, 2011

Quick Firing After FMLA Claim Leads to Discrimination Settlement

As evinced by my many recent posts on Pennsylvania verdicts in the employment discrimination arena I think that the facts leading to a verdict or settlement in Civil Rights, ADA, Employment and Disability Discrimination cases is instructive to potential plaintiffs and the lawyers representing them about what facts are present in successful claims. The case of John T. Fadako v. Omega Technologies Inc., is another good example.

In this employment discrimination case, plaintiff ,John T. Fadako, began working in the Philadelphia office of Omega Technologies Inc., working as a network operations manager for the company's project for the federal Bureau of Labor and Statistics, pursuant to a contract with the federal government.

Fadako claimed that throughout his employment with Omega, he suffered from a serious, preexisting back condition caused by two herniated discs, which resulted in substantial pain and significantly limited his daily living, including walking. However, Fadako said he was able to "competently and diligently" perform his job duties for Omega. Fadako claimed that in 2007, his back condition became more severe, requiring him to seek increased medical intervention and treatment. In April 2007, Fadako, understanding that his condition warranted the use of leave time under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), contacted Omega's human resources director to request the necessary FMLA paperwork. On April 25, Fadako's medical provider completed an FMLA form that informed his employer that he was suffering from a "chronic condition" that would "require periodic visits for treatment" and may cause "incapacity."

On May 3, Fadako was terminated via telephone by Omega's president. Fadako claimed the president indicated that his termination was necessitated by his medical condition, and that Fadako's direct supervisor then circulated an email to staff members asserting that Fadako was no longer employed "due to medical reasons."

Fadako sued Omega for violation of ADA, maintaining that his termination was motivated by defendant's desire to discriminate against plaintiff due to his disability and/or perceived disability. Omega denied any wrongdoing and entered into a stipulation for entry of judgment with the plaintiff.

The parties settled for $75,000 prior to trial.

Here there are two critical factors that led to the plaintiff's success. First, he was exercising his right to FMLA and arguably discriminated against as a result. As I've written before, many wrongful termination cases occur when the employer improperly responds to a protected activity. Second, the timing of the employer's notice of termination was less than a month after the plaintiff notified his employer of his intention to take FMLA leave. Had the employer waited longer (which they often due), biding their time, this would have been a more difficult case for the plaintiff to establish.

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