Jury awards former Covenant Medical Center employee $500k for wrongful termination

A federal jury awarded more than $500,000 to a former Covenant Medical Center employee June 17, finding that her termination from the Saginaw, Mich.-based hospital was retaliation for taking medical leave, according to MLive.

The eight-person jury determined Covenant Medical Center violated the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act when it fired 41-year-old Amanda Perry in November 2014.

After working as a biller at Covenant's Visiting Nursing Association Department for a few years, Ms. Perry, who had a history of psychiatric diagnoses, was promoted to office coordinator of two of Covenant's physicians' offices in 2012.

In July 2014, Ms. Perry's symptoms related to her psychiatric diagnoses worsened. She subsequently requested a leave of absence as a result of her medical condition. According to court records, she took several days off between July 25, 2014, and Aug. 15, 2014.

In August 2014, Ms. Perry's supervisor allegedly expressed concerns about the amount of time Ms. Perry was taking off from work and told her "to get it together." Ms. Perry remained off work from Aug. 15, 2014, through Oct. 6, 2014.

When she returned to work she was reassigned as the coordinator for two primary care clinics. A few weeks later, she received a "step I" discipline for behavioral and performance issues. She subsequently received a "step III" discipline — a final warning — for unprofessional conduct and crying in front of a patient. Ms. Perry was effectively fired when she received a "step IV" discipline for allegedly asking a co-worker to provide a false statement.

Although the hospital claimed Ms. Perry was fired for the issues identified in the disciplinary warnings, Ms. Perry said she was let go because she requested time off and due to her disability.

The jury awarded Ms. Perry more than $30,000 in back pay, $445,000 in front pay and $25,000 for mental anguish. The court is going to double the back pay amount as a sanction, according to the report. In addition, Covenant is responsible for attorney fees, which are about $100,000.

Ms. Perry's lawyer Victor Mastromarco Jr. is pleased with the verdict. Regarding Covenant's disciplinary warnings against Ms. Perry, he told MLive, "They skipped steps and didn't do anything to help her correct her actions."

Larry Daly, a Covenant spokesman, told MLive that the system is disappointed with the lawsuit's outcome. "Covenant acted fairly and within the confines of the law. The employee was terminated because she was unable to perform the duties of her job," he said. Covenant intends to file an appeal in the case, according to Mr. Daly.

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