Jon Campisi Apr. 10, 2014, 7:43am


A former table games supervisor for Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino

claims that her firing after a little more than a year of employment was discriminatory in nature and due to her needing to take intermittent days off of work because of her medical conditions.

Julie Strain, a resident of Ocean City, N.J., filed suit in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on April 8 against SugarHouse HSP Gaming L.P. alleging her April 12, 2013 termination violated the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

Strain, who suffers from chronic migraines and bipolar disorder, began working as a table games supervisor for the casino, which is located along the Delaware River waterfront in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood, back in late March 2012.

In early December of that year, the lawsuit states, a shift manager issued the plaintiff a written warning “level 2” performance improvement notice relating to her medically-related work absences.

A pit manager who was aware of Strain’s conditions subsequently informed the shift manager about the plaintiff’s medical issues, the complaint states.

In early March of last year, Strain spoke to a human resources representative about possible FMLA leave, which the plaintiff believed would be necessary due to her medical conditions and treatment protocol, according to the civil action.

Strain then filled out the proper FMLA paperwork and filed it with SugarHouse.

On March 22 of last year, prior to being granted FMLA leave, Strain asked a shift manager at the casino if she could take off on April 4, but the manager declined the request, saying the casino was short-staffed, the suit states.

Days later, Strain inquired about the status of her FMLA leave request, after which she learned it had been approved.

On April 11 of last year, after reporting to work, Strain was asked about an incident involving a casino customer that occurred about two-and-a-half weeks earlier in which the patron had asked questions about his personal information being kept in SugarHouse’s computer database, the complaint states.

Strain informed the supervisor that while the customer was asking questions, she had to leave to deal with an urgent matter at another table game, where she had been summoned by a table games dealer, as per casino policy.

The following day, Strain was called into the office of a shift manager and informed that her employment was being terminated immediately for giving a player personal information.

“Defendant SugarHouse’s proffered reason for the termination of Plaintiff Strain’s employment is pretextual in that under the circumstances Strain did her best to comply with SugarHouse’s policies and the true motivation was retaliation for Strain availing herself of FMLA leave to take necessary time off from work,” the lawsuit reads. “In terminating Plaintiff Strain’s employment, Defendant SugarHouse had a discriminatory intent in taking action against an employee with a history of health issues, who needed to avail herself of FMLA leave.”

The casino’s actions, the suit states, were “willful and outrageous in that its motives and conduct as set forth above were malicious, wanton, reckless and oppressive.”

Strain, who made an annual salary of $52,000 plus benefits, seeks lost wages and benefits, attorney’s fees, expert witness fees, interest and costs.

She is being represented by Blue Bell, Pa. lawyer Andrew S. Abramson.

 

The federal case number is 2:14-cv-02057-TJS.

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