Many times here in Los Angeles we see that when an employee is fired, the subsequent wrongful termination lawsuit exposes a history of alleged discriminatory and other inappropriate actions by the employer. That’s what is happening in the case of a nearly 20-year county employee who worked as a paramedic and firefighter.
The Florida woman, who was fired in July 2012 for not providing a doctor’s note after an absence from work, is alleging a long pattern of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation by supervisors and colleagues. Perhaps the most disturbing charge she makes is that back in 2004, her partner left her in a burning building. She filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after that incident. According to the county attorney, the complaint was dismissed.
The plaintiff is alleging disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). She is contending that her civil rights were violated.
The firefighter says that she was so badly harassed in 2005 after filing a complaint that she resigned from the fire medic program. She also claims that her fire captain retaliated against her, and that her pay was cut. Her lawsuit contends that she was terminated not for refusing to provide a doctor’s note, but because of her complaints.
The county attorney who is representing Manatee County in the suit has a different story. He contends that the plaintiff has had both attendance and performance issues over a long period of time. He says that because the woman’s captain believed she was taking time off when she was not actually ill, she ordered her to get a note from her physician to back up her claim that she had an allergic reaction. When the plaintiff reportedly refused to do that, she was fired.
In her lawsuit, the plaintiff is asking for damages, and to be reinstated to her job. The county is refusing to settle the case, and is determined to fight the paramedic’s allegations.
It sounds like, as often happens, the relationship between this employee and her superiors had been a rocky one for some time. Nonetheless, all employers (and particularly government employers) are bound by strict regulations that protect workers’ rights. If they fail to follow those, employees have every right to pursue legal action.
Bradenton Herald, “Former paramedic files lawsuit against Manatee County” Richard Dymond, Oct. 23, 2013