Jon Campisi Nov. 13, 2013, 10:02am


A woman who worked for nearly 20 years as a pharmacy technician for

Rite Aid is challenging her July 2012 termination in court, alleging in a recently filed civil action that she was “retired” by the defendant in retaliation for complaining about improper treatment.

Philadelphia resident Melonie Hurling filed suit at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Nov. 8 against Rite Aid Corp. and two supervisors, identified as Ryan Nguyen and Christine Caravello.

Nguyen worked as the pharmacy manager of the Rite Aid at 5440 Lansdowne Avenue in Philadelphia and Caravello was the pharmacy district manager for the company at the time of the plaintiff’s termination, the suit states.

According to the complaint, Hurling, who began working for the defendant in late February 1993, always maintained a “superlative” job performance rating throughout her career with the pharmacy, and she never had disciplinary problems until she began being supervised by Nguyen in 2010.

From the start of Nguyen’s employment with the defendant, Hurling was subjected to discrimination, harassment and a hostile work environment, the suit states.

The alleged harassing conduct included unfair written warnings for the plaintiff either calling out of work or leaving work early on only three separate occasions in 2012.

The complaint even claims that Nguyen ran into the plaintiff at a gas station near the woman’s home in late May 2012, at which time Hurling was on her way to a funeral for her nephew.

While Hurling had obtained approval to take off work for the day to attend the funeral, Nguyen approached the plaintiff at the gas station and asked her if it was OK for him to write her up.

When Hurling asked what for, the man declined to respond, although he did end up showing her a write-up when she showed up to work the following day.

Four days later, the complaint alleges, after Rite Aid failed an inspection, Nguyen told Hurling he was going to write her up for things that weren’t her fault.

The complaint goes on to give examples of discriminatory treatment against Hurling, including singling the woman out for issues regarding her work uniform, when other employees who had the same problem were never bothered about the dress issue.

Nguyen also accused Hurling of mislabeling medicine bottles, although there was no proof that the plaintiff had done just that, according to the suit.

“Defendant Nguyen did not treat younger employees or male employees, or non African American employees with the level of disrespect that Plaintiff was confronted with,” the complaint states.

Nguyen would also treat younger employees differently than the plaintiff, who was 57 years old at the time of her firing, the lawsuit alleges.

On July 7, 2012, Hurling had a meeting with her union representative, Nguyen, defendant Caravello and a human resource manager, after which she was informed that she was being “retired.”

The plaintiff had to seek out therapy as a result of her termination because she was dealing with depression.

“While not all the issues addressed in therapy were directly related to her termination, her lack of employment exacerbated the unrelated stressors in Plaintiff’s life,” the complaint states.

Hurling claims she was never actually provided with a reason for her forced “retirement.”

“It is Plaintiff’s believe [sic] that her termination was pretextual and that she was terminated solely as a result of her race (African American) age, 57, and gender, female,” the suit states.

The defendants are accused of violating the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Hurling seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, in addition to unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and other court relief.

She is being represented by Philadelphia attorneys Jonathan J. James and Michael C. Schwartz of the firm James, Schwartz & Associates.

 

The federal case number is 2:13-cv-06533-CDJ.

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