Healthcare agency faces discrimination and wrongful termination claim

Jon Campisi Nov. 22, 2011, 10:39am

A Philadelphia man who worked for a local healthcare agency as a housekeeper for five years, the last two of which were spent as a full-time employee, has filed a federal complaint against his former employer, alleging he was fired for discriminatory and retaliatory reasons.

Bensalem, Pa. attorney Ari Karpf filed the lawsuit Nov. 21 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Willie Penson.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are Philadelphia-based Solis Healthcare LP, Hugh Grant, who is identified as a manager at the company, and Michael Henrici, the company’s human relations representative.

According to the complaint, Penson was fired from his job in August 2009 for reasons he claims in his lawsuit were simply “untrue,” although specifics aren’t offered.

The termination came on the heels of Penson’s claims of discrimination, and subsequent assault, on the part of company management.

The lawsuit states that at the time of his hiring, Penson suffered from a variety of health issues, such as a serious heart condition, which requires ongoing medication and treatment. Penson continues to suffer from the same ailments, the suit claims.

In April 2009, five years after Penson began working for Solis – which is located in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia – and about three months after going full-time at the company, Penson began taking leave to attend medical appointments for treatment related to his health conditions, the suit states.

During his employment with the company, Penson had requested intermittent time off to deal with his health problems, the suit states.

In late April 2009, Penson missed about one week’s worth of work due to hospitalizations, the lawsuit states. Upon his return, Penson provided supervisors with the proper documentation showing his absences was related to his medical issues,, the suit claims.

Nevertheless, on or about April 30, 2009, upon his return to work, Penson was assaulted and/or threatened by Solis management, the lawsuit states. This included allegedly being threatened with physical harm and being called a racial slur.

Penson is African American.

“In or about late April 2009, after the aforementioned assault incident, Plaintiff became extremely distressed, uncomfortable and fearful of his safety,” the lawsuit states.

It was around that time that Penson filed a police report and made several internal complaints of discrimination to Solis management, including, but not limited to, defendant Henrici, the suit states.

The complaint asserts that as of July 2009, the company failed to notify Penson of his rights with regard to the federal Family Medical Leave Act. The health conditions that Penson suffered from would qualify Penson for the federal leave, the suit states.

Soon after Penson lodged his complaints against the company of racial discrimination, and soon after his requests for medical accommodations, Penson was told that he was no longer employed at the business, the suit states.

“Defendants terminated Plaintiff for untrue reasons,” the suit states.

The complaint accuses the defendants of racial discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, actual and perceived disability discrimination, interference and retaliation, and failure to accommodate.

Penson seeks declaratory judgment, lost and future earnings, unspecified punitive damages, litigation costs and other court relief.

A jury trial is being demanded.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-07243.

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