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Fired police dispatcher files wrongful termination claim

By Jon Campisi | Oct 14, 2011

A former Montgomery County, Pa. police dispatcher who was fired from his job after his employers alleged they hadn’t received the proper medical forms required for a leave of absence is suing the county for wrongful termination.

Philadelphia attorneys Nancy B.G. Lassen and Scott M. Pollins, of the law firm Willig, Williams & Davidson, filed the federal complaint Oct. 11 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on behalf of Croyden, Pa. resident Thomas J. Farrell.

The complaint states that Farrell, who began working for the county in May 2008, was fired late last year after his superiors “illegally refused” to grant the plaintiff’s request for family and medical leave.

Farrell, the suit states, had first taken some time off in September 2009 after he suffered what he believed to be a stroke during work hours, an incident that required him to be flown by helicopter to a hospital. At that time, he was approved for leave under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.

A year later, however, Farrell broke his wrist in a non-work-related fall. He subsequently informed his bosses he would need to take time off from work to heal, the suit states.

Farrell was told the only way he’d be able to keep his job is if he obtained approval from human resources for an FMLA leave of absence, since he had apparently exhausted all of his sick time.

Farrell then contacted human resources, a representative of which informed Farrell that the department was unaware he had been taking time off from work for the wrist injury.

To be approved for FMLA leave, Farrell was told he would have to obtain a certification form completed by his physician. The lawsuit claims that Farrell was told the form couldn’t be done in-house, and had to be completed by a sister doctor’s office.

Because it took a while for the paperwork to get in order, Farrell requested an extension of time in which to submit the application, a request that was granted by human resources.

On Oct. 19, 2010, Farrell was contacted by a doctor’s office representative who told the plaintiff the paperwork would be submitted to his employer by the Oct. 26 deadline the county instituted, the suit states.

The doctor’s office soon assured Farrell that his paperwork was faxed to his employer on Oct. 22, four days before the county-imposed deadline.

The human resources representative eventually acknowledged receipt of the paperwork, but claimed that it has not been properly signed, and that there was no name on it, the suit claims. However, the representative admitted that it came from the plaintiff’s physician.

The county eventually received the paperwork via mail, but it arrived on Oct. 27, the day after the county-imposed deadline.

Farrell contacted a superior, a county deputy director of public safety, who said the matter was “out of his hands,” and that in his eyes Farrell had “abandoned his job,” the lawsuit claims.

Farrell denied that he had abandoned his job, and that his illness constituted a “serious health condition,” which required him to take time off from work.

“T.J. had an illness, impairment or medical condition that involves continuing treatment by a healthcare provider for a period of incapacity of more than three consecutive days and treatment by a healthcare provider on at least one occasion which results in a regimen of continuing treatment under the supervision of a healthcare provider,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims that Farrell was entitled to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for his “serious health condition” without repercussions pursuant to the FMLA.

“The County illegally refused to grant T.J.’s request for FMLA leave and illegally terminated him in retaliation for asserting his rights under the FMLA,” the lawsuit claims.

Through his lawsuit, Farrell seeks back pay, front pay, benefits, liquidated damages, interest, negative tax consequence damages, attorney’s fees and other related costs. He has demanded a jury trial.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-06365-CMR.

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