Former employee sues Quest Diagnostics, alleging disability discrimination

Kasey Schefflin-Emrich Aug. 19, 2015, 12:16pm


A Pittsburgh woman is suing her former employer, alleging it denied her promotional opportunities and ultimately terminated her because of her disability.

Michele Freeman filed a lawsuit July 17 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Quest Diagnostics Inc. in Madison, N.J.,, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

According to the complaint, Freeman began working for Quest Diagnostics at its Pittsburgh location in November 2009 first as a laboratory aide and then promoted to a laboratory assistant a few months later. The suit states after Freeman returned to work in July 2013 following a three-month FMLA leave for a wrist injury her supervisor perceived her as disabled and thus denied her a promotion to lab technician because she thought the injury would impact Freeman's ability to perform the duties of the position. The supervisor made this assessment despite the fact Freeman had full medical clearance to work without restrictions from her doctor, the lawsuit states.

Additionally, following the FLMA leave, the suit says Freeman faced retaliation as she was given written warnings for her certain actions such as when she used her cell phone during the workday while other employees weren't disciplined for the same behavior.

The civil action alleges when Freeman began having stomach issues during the fall of the same year the defendant refused to provide her with accommodations and she was stigmatized as the result of her condition. Freeman contends that, unlike other employees, she was required to notify a co-worker every time she needed to use the restroom. Moreover, her co-workers were told to go into the restroom to make sure Freeman was actually there and also look into garbage cans to confirm if Freeman actually had vomited--which was one of the symptoms of her medical condition, the suit says.

Freeman says after having to take off from work for a week in December 2013 to recover from gallbladder removal surgery, and despite providing constant updates to the defendant of her status and intention to return to work, she returned to work and learned that she was terminated.

Although Quest Diagnostics offered to reinstate Freeman two weeks later, as indicated in the suit, the offer wasn't made in good faith as Freeman would have to agree to a different work schedule, report to the same supervisor who was hostile toward her, receive a written warning related to her medical leave and be placed on probation, the lawsuit states. Freeman didn't agree to the reinstatement terms and was constructively discharged.

Freeman seeks compensation for past and future lost wages and benefits, general compensatory damages, liquidated damages, punitive damages, attorney fees, court costs, and other relief deemed appropriate by the court. She is represented by attorney Nicole Daller of Pittsburgh.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania case number 2:15-cv-00932-TFM.

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