Jon Campisi Nov. 25, 2011, 8:17am

A former employee of Abington Memorial Hospital who alleges she was fired in retaliation for taking federally approved medical leave is suing the healthcare facility in federal court.

Lisa Rickards, of Philadelphia, who worked for the Montgomery County, Pa. hospital for a five-year period between February 2006 and January of this year, alleges that she was terminated from her job as registered nurse case manager after supervisors accused her of taking a lengthy leave following a motor vehicle accident.

In her lawsuit, filed Nov. 21 in federal court in Philadelphia by attorneys Sidney L. Gold and Traci M. Greenberg, Rickards claims she was under doctor’s orders to remain out of work from mid-September 2010 until mid-December 2010 because of serious injuries she sustained in a vehicle accident on Sept. 16 of that year.

As a result of the accident, Rickards sustained a severe concussion, blurred vision, double vision, nausea, vomiting, head contusions, shoulder and hip injuries, bruises on her chest and pelvis, whiplash, and neck and back aches, the suit claims.

The hospital subsequently approved Rickards’ leave of absence under short-term disability and the federal Family Medical Leave Act, the suit states.

Nevertheless, supervisors began questioning Rickards about when she would be returning to work. One told Rickards her job would not be available to her upon her return, the lawsuit states.

As a result of what the suit claims was a “continual barrage” of phone calls to Rickards, the plaintiff returned to work on Dec. 10, 2010, even though her doctor suggested she stay out on leave until January of this year.

In early January, after her return, Rickards was placed on suspension after supervisors told Rickards she “broke protocol” during her leave, although this was allegedly never elaborated upon, the lawsuit states.

On Jan. 11, Rickards was officially terminated from her job, the suit states.

“Interestingly, Plaintiff Rickards was scheduled to receive a pay raise and a vested pension from Defendant in or about February of 2011,” the suit states.

The lawsuit claims that Rickards’ firing was actually pretextual, and that the real reason she was terminated was because she exercised her right to utilize federally approved medical leave.

Rickards seeks lost pay, front pay, liquidated damages, pre-and-post-judgment, attorney’s fees and expert witness fees and other court relief.

Rickards has demanded a jury trial.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-07262-CMR.

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