Philadelphia man challenges firing from B.J.'s Wholesale Club with lawsuit

Jon Campisi Aug. 26, 2011, 10:11am

A Philadelphia man who alleges his firing from a B.J.’s Wholesale Club store in New Jersey after 15 years of employment is suing his former employer in federal court.

Bensalem, Pa. attorney Ari R. Karpf, of the firm Karpf & Karpf, P.C., filed the employment discrimination lawsuit Aug. 25 on behalf of Thomas Hickey.

The defendant listed in the suit is Massachusetts-based B.J.’s Wholesale Club, Inc.

In his complaint, Hickey, who resides in Northeast Philadelphia, alleges that his firing from the B.J.’s location at 309 Dautry Lane in Burlington, N.J. on Aug. 8 of this year was due to the fact that he was asking to take medical leave related to a health condition.

Hickey, the suit states, suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD, in addition to being a lung cancer survivor. Successful lung cancer surgery required Hickey to take a medical leave of absence in 2006, and subsequent medical leaves during the summer months in successive years due to his breathing issues.

Hickey, who worked in a warehouse as a forklift operator and/or crossdocker, was required to unload heavy merchandise as part of his daily tasks.

Because the warehouse became “excessively hot” during the summer months, he would often have to file for medical leave since he was “unable to physically work in such heat,” the lawsuit states.

As 2011 rolled around, Hickey decided he was going to attempt to work in the warehouse facilities because the defendant had installed some fans, but also due to the fact that “management tried to dissuade him from taking a block medical leave as he had typically taken in prior years,” the lawsuit claims.

“Contrary to his management’s expressed desire that Plaintiff not take [medical leave] in the summer of 2011, Plaintiff did apply for [medical leave] but only on a intermittent basis to ensure that when he had respiratory problems he would be protected for missing periodic time (as needed) from work,” the lawsuit states.

On Aug. 4, Hickey’s doctor signed off on a form that was given to the defendant as part of the submittal process for medical leave. On Aug. 8, Hickey received a letter stating he was approved for said leave. Later that same day, however, he was terminated from his job for showing up to work late approximately one week prior.

The lawsuit contains counts of violations of the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, as well as violations of New Jersey’s Law against Discrimination.

Through his claim, Hickey seeks lost pay, actual damages for pain and suffering and humiliation caused by the defendant’s actions, punitive damages and legal relief.

Hickey has demanded a jury trial.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05370.

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