Fired paralegal sues Philadelphia law firm for wrongful discharge

By Jon Campisi | May 2, 2012

A former paralegal for an area law firm who was fired from her $57,000-a-year position just a little over a year after being hired by the company has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit, alleging her discharge was a result of disability discrimination.

Philadelphia attorney James A. Bell filed the civil action April 27 at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on behalf of city resident Jacqueline Heenan.

The law firm named as a defendant in the suit is Philadelphia-based Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Lowey LLP.

According to the complaint, Heenan, who was hired by the defendant in early November 2009, was diagnosed by her doctor in the spring of 2010 as having atrial septial defect, a medical condition requiring open-heart surgery.

Upon learning her diagnosis, Heenan informed her superiors that she would need to take medical leave, after which her employer agreed to a stint of unpaid leave.

Despite the initial assurance that her job would be waiting for Heenan upon her return, however, the law firm soon allegedly did an about-face, and terminated Heenan’s employment on April 22, 2010, after agreeing to accommodate her disability, the lawsuit alleges.

The defendant cited Heenan’s need to take medical leave as the reason for the termination, the suit states.

“Defendant refused to provide any accommodation to Ms. Heenan or engage in any meaningful discussion of making reasonable accommodations,” the lawsuit states. “Defendant terminated Plaintiff because of her disability, and because Defendant regarded Ms. Heenan as disabled and in retaliation for Ms. Heenan requesting that Defendant provide a reasonable accommodation for her disability.”

The complaint alleges that the law firm acted with reckless disregard of the probability that their actions would cause the plaintiff to suffer severe emotional distress, something with which she continues to suffer.

The lawsuit accuses the defendant of violating the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Heenan demands judgment in excess of $50,000, plus interest, punitive damages, litigation costs and other court relief.

A jury trial has been demanded.


The case ID number is 120403386. 

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