Clinical lab scientist says California medical center fired her for 'long COVID'

A woman who worked as a clinical lab scientist at Fresno-based Community Hospitals of Central California has filed a lawsuit alleging she was fired for missing too much work while recovering from "long-haul" COVID-19, the Fresno Bee reported March 25. 

Kathleen Hamada filed the lawsuit March 22 in Fresno County Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges discrimination based on disability, retaliation in violation of medical leave laws and wrongful termination, among other charges.

Ms. Hamada, who suffers from several medical conditions including diabetes, cardio-pulmonary disease and traumatic brain injury, contends that when she had to take time off work on several occassions due to illness, her employer disciplined her based on her attendance.

In April 2020, Ms. Hamada said she contracted COVID-19 and took a six-week medical leave based on her healthcare provider's recommendation. The lawsuit states she returned to work in June 2020, although she still suffered from coronavirus effects and is considered to be a "long-haul" COVID-19 patient.

She said her healthcare provider recommended intermittent medical leave, but she was discouraged from taking this leave by her supervisor, "shunned by her supervisor and co-workers," and disciplined based on attendance when she was absent several times over a period of a few months because of illness.

Ms. Hamada says her employer fired her Oct. 13, after more than 33 years of employment, and accused her of violating the medical center's attendance policy. Federal law gives eligible employees 12 work weeks of leave in a 12-month period for reasons including "to care for the employee's spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition" and for "a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job." 

In a statement shared with Becker's, Michelle Von Tersch, senior vice president of communications and legislative affairs for Community Medical Centers, said she can't comment on pending litigation.

"Patient care and employee well-being is our highest priority. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Community Medical Centers expanded employees assistance programs including extended time off for employees to care for themselves and their loved ones," a statement from Community Medical Centers said.

Ms. Hamada seeks damages and reinstatement, the Fresno Bee reported. 

Read the full article here. Access the full lawsuit here


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