Univ. of Pa. Health System faces discriminatory firing complaint

By Jon Campisi | Jul 30, 2013

A 51-year-old Montgomery County woman who worked as a patient service

representative for the University of Pennsylvania Health System has filed a discrimination action against the health system and two of its employees over claims that she was fired from her job of seven years in violation of federal law.

Laura Smith claims in her lawsuit, filed July 25 at U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, that she was fired in early February of last year based on written discipline she received that reflected the problems she was having doing her job without special accommodations.

Smith says she was written up three separate times between June 2011 and October of that year for alleged infractions that were related to pain she experienced associated with an unspecified disability, and the problems that those symptoms caused in affecting her concentration.

The plaintiff, who was first hired by the defendant in the fall of 2005, claims that she was subjected to discrimination and harassment because of her disability, as well as eventual retaliation in the form of work termination.

Smith claims she made her employer aware of her disability in 2009, as a result of a surgery and a contemporaneous medical leave to treat her ailment.

It was in the spring of 2011 that Smith sought special accommodations from UPHS, Allison Spring and Mary Boyle that would allow the plaintiff to continue performing her job duties.

Spring and Boyle are named as additional defendants in the suit, although the complaint doesn’t specify what positions the two held at UPHS.

While the plaintiff was permitted to take intermittent medical leave, the company refused to pay for, or conduct, a “workstation ergonomic evaluation” that Smith’s doctor said the woman required.

Shortly thereafter, the defendants began to harass, discriminate and retaliate against Smith, the lawsuit claims, including issuing the written disciplinary actions.

Smith claims that up until her firing, she had been the second oldest employee in her position, and that she was subsequently replaced by a younger person after her firing.

“Ms. Smith’s termination was motivated by discrimination based upon Ms. Smith’s disability, and/or the fact that she was perceived as disabled, and in retaliation for Ms. Smith’s legally protected assertion of her rights regarding her disability and need for accommodation,” the suit reads.

The defendants are accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, The Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Smith seeks lost wages and benefits, liquidated damages, punitive damages, compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and other court relief.

The plaintiff is being represented by Philadelphia attorney James A. Bell, IV, of Bell & Bell LLP.


The federal case number is 2:13-cv-04322-CMR. 

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