Woman who once got her job back through litigation sues employer again for wrongful termination

By Jon Campisi | Sep 30, 2011

Mitzie Clarke, who previously got her job back in a successful wrongful termination suit against Piedmont Airlines, has sued the airline once again. This time, the baggage handler claims she was terminated because of her extended medical leave.

Bensalem attorney Ari Karpf, of Karpf & Karpf PC filed Clarke's civil complaint Sept. 26 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against Piedmont Airlines Inc. of Salisbury, Md.

According to the complaint, Clarke, who been working for the company since July 2009, was terminated in mid September 2010, allegedly for unexcused absences. But Clarke maintains it had to do with her needing to take medical leave for major surgery in August 2010.

One reason for her termination was a “no call, no show” incident in late July 2010, which stemmed from Clarke’s inability to return to the United States, under doctors orders, after becoming ill while in Jamaica. Clarke, however, claims the leave of absence was allowable under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

In November 2010, Clarke filed a federal lawsuit against Piedmont alleging wrongful termination. The claim was settled in March and Clarke was subsequently given her job back as a ramp agent in June of this year.

Clarke’s immediate supervisor, the same supervisor at the time she was fired, expressed “animosity” toward Clarke because of her reinstatement, the lawsuit claims. Clarke also claims the supervisor initially delayed her start date, causing additional difficulties.

In late June, Clarke requested and was approved for bereavement leave from work to attend the funeral of her grandfather in Jamaica.

She requested, and was approved for, the same leave for her brother’s funeral in August, the suit states.

Clarke’s employer asked her to provide documentation, such as a note from the funeral home, as part of her leave approval, the suit claims. Because of Jamaican customs, however, such a note wasn’t immediately available.

In a letter in late August, the defendant told Clarke she would be subject to disciplinary action if a note wasn’t provided. Clarke provided the company with a note “as quickly as possible,” the suit states, despite the fact that she was out of the country for two separate funerals on two separate occasions.

Nevertheless, Clarke was once again terminated in August for what the lawsuit claims was retaliation over her previous litigation.

The lawsuit accuses the defendant of violating the Family and Medical Leave Act and for retaliatory discharge.

Clarke seeks to be repaid for lost and future earnings, as well as for medical insurance and other job-related benefits.

Clarke also seeks liquidated damages for what she claims was the “willful, deliberate, malicious and outrageous” conduct on the part of the defendant, litigation costs, and other equitable and legal relief.

The lawsuit also seeks to have the defendant ordered to stop its illegal practice and custom of discrimination and retaliating against employees.

A jury trial is being sought.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-06047-CMR.

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