Freda Willis, a 56 year-old former employee of The University of Pennsylvania Health System  has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the organization, claiming that after 20 years of service she was fired because of her medical conditions. (2:11-cv-05294-JD)

According to Willis, during the last several years of her employment as a call representative, she suffered from a number of medical ailments, including irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety and depression.  These health problems led to her taking a medical leave of absence, which did not bode well with her employer, the suit claims.

The lawsuit states, “Plaintiff’s management made negative comments about her health, her need for medical leave and admonished Plaintiff for needing to take periodic restroom breaks due to her health problems.”

The complaint alleges that Willis was eventually terminated from her job for what she was told were performance problems.

The lawsuit, which alleges retaliatory discharge and wrongful termination, contains counts of violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

According to the ADA,  If an employee has a disability and is qualified to do a job, they are protected from job discrimination on the basis of their disability. The ADA defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. The ADA also protects  employees who have a history of such a disability.

Americans with Disabilities Act  

To qualify for ADA protection,  an employee must have, have a record of, or be regarded as having a substantial impairment. A substantial impairment is one that significantly limits or restricts a major life activity such as hearing, seeing, speaking, walking, breathing, performing manual tasks, caring for oneself, learning or working.

If an employee or job applicant has a disability, they must also be qualified to perform the essential functions or duties of the job, in order to be protected from job discrimination by the ADA.  First, the employee must satisfy the employer’s education, experience and license requirements for the job.  Second, the employee must be able to perform the essential functions of the job with reasonable accommodation.

Family and Medical Leave Act

The FMLA provides employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, “job-protected” leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.

The plaintiff seeks to be compensated for lost and future earnings, pay increases, bonuses, and medical and other benefits. She also demands damages for emotional distress and pain and suffering as well as punitive damages and costs related to the court action.

If you have suffered discrimination or wrongful termination in violation of Federal or California Employment Law, please call California Employment Attorney, Todd M. Friedman at 877-449-8898 for a free consultation.