PHILADELPHIA – Urban Outfitters Inc. defended its treatment
of employees when asked for a response to a complaint filed by a former
employee who raised allegations that the company violated the Family and
Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“URBN takes the health, safety and rights of its employees
very seriously,” Urban Outfitters told the Pennsylvania
Record through its public relations department.
In addition, the company said it helps employees with a
disability or other health concerns.
“Among other things, URBN is strongly committed to assisting
employees who may have a disability, or who encounter a personal of family
health issue, to find a reasonable accommodation or with time off to care for
themselves or their families,” Urban Outfitters said.
However, the company declined to comment specifically on the
allegations raised in the lawsuit filed by former employee Eric Boston.
“With respect to (the Pennsylvania Record’s) specific questions
about this case, URBN’s policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation,” the
Boston’s attorney, Manali Arora of Swartz Swidler LLC also
declined comment, citing her firm’s policy not to comment while litigation is
In the complaint filed Sept. 7 in the U.S. District Court
for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Boston claimed that Urban Outfitters
fired him because he exercised his rights under the Family and Medical Leave
Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that his employment was
terminated in 2015 to punish him for asking the company to make accommodations
for his anxiety, which was diagnosed about five months after he was hired as a
kitchen chef by Urban Outfitters in January 2012.
Because of a change in the medication he was taking to treat
his anxiety, Boston said his doctor ordered him to take two weeks off from work
to adjust to the new medication.
The plaintiff said he immediately notified his supervisor
and Urban Outfitters’ executive chef that he would need to take leave in
connection with his medical condition, but no one at Urban Outfitters notified
him of his right to take a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave
Act and the defendant did not classify the plaintiff’s absence as being
protected under the act.
Boston said he gave his supervisor a note from his doctor
when he returned to work and told Urban Outfitters that his anxiety made it
difficult to interact directly with customers. As a result, Boston said he
asked the company to reassign him to a grill chef or middle line cook position,
which required less interaction with customers than the sandwich and pizza
station, where he had been previously working.
Although Urban Outfitters allegedly often reassigned kitchen
chefs to different stations within the cafeteria, and despite four requests for
reassignment, Boston claims the company refused his request.
Boston was fired on Sept. 24, 2015, the suit says, adding that the company claimed the
plaintiff was fired in response to a customer complaint. However, Boston said
he had never been disciplined in connection with a customer complaint before he
was fired and had received only positive performance reviews throughout the
course of his employment.
According to Boston’s complaint, co-workers who received
customer complaints in the past had only been subject to “minor discipline.”
Boston is seeking reimbursement of lost pay and benefits,
damages related to the company’s alleged “willful, deliberate, malicious and
outrageous conduct,” and damages related to the plaintiff’s emotional distress.