United Refrigeration and its human resource manager have been named in
a civil action initiated by a former employee who claims she was fired from her job of 10 years as a credit manager for the company in retaliation for the plaintiff attempting to assert her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Philadelphia resident Christine A. Brady filed her complaint Oct. 15 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against United Refrigeration Inc., which bills itself as one of the largest distributors of refrigeration, air conditioning and heating parts and equipment in North America.
In addition to the company, which was founded in Philadelphia in 1947, and now has locations across the U.S. and in the Virgin Islands and Canada, Barbara A. Keenan is also named as a defendant.
Keenan is identified as the company’s human resource and payroll manager.
The complaint says that Brady, who worked as a credit manager for URI beginning in the spring of 2001, informed her bosses in late 2010 that she suffered from multiple chemical sensitivities.
About a week later, the plaintiff provided Keenan with a doctor’s note informing the company about Brady’s medical situation.
Brady’s work area was soon moved and she was provided with a portable air purifier, the suit says.
The defendant also distributed to workers a no fragrance policy.
Several weeks later, the suit states, Brady reported to her supervisors that she was being ridiculed by a coworker about her medical condition.
The coworker, who failed to comply with the no fragrance policy, was apparently never disciplined, the suit claims.
Brady alleges that other coworkers eventually gave her grief over the plaintiff’s condition, with one colleague telling the woman that she was the “biggest problem in the company and everyone in the whole building agrees,” the complaint reads.
Employees, meanwhile, continued to wear what the suit calls “excessive perfume,” sparking the company to issue yet another no fragrance policy, this one the fourth in less than a year.
At one point in time, Keenan, the co-defendant, stated that URI believed it had gone to “extraordinary efforts to accommodate Brady and she was still unable to consistently perform the essential functions of her job,” the lawsuit reads.
The human resource representative subsequently told Brady that the company did not have work that would meet the woman’s medical restrictions and that the plaintiff would be laid off effective Oct. 19, 2011, according to the civil action.
Brady maintains that she is disabled pursuant to federal law because she has mental, physical and/or neurological impairments that substantially limit major life activities, including work.
The suit says that while the company and Keenan may have attempted to accommodate Brady’s medical condition, the accommodations were either “ineffective or only temporary and therefore unreasonable.”
The plaintiff argues that she was terminated based on disability discrimination and that she had been subjected to a hostile work environment.
Brady says that URI illegally refused to provide her leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act and that it fired her in retaliation for attempting to assert her rights under the law.
The complaint states that Brady has suffered from emotional distress, embarrassment, humiliation, suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish and other non-pecuniary losses as a direct result of the defendants’ unlawful conduct.
The defendants are accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
Brady seeks back pay, front pay, interest, attorney’s fees, costs, declaratory relief and compensatory damages for emotional distress, mental anguish, humiliation and embarrassment.
She also seeks an unspecified amount of punitive damages.
The plaintiff is being represented by attorney Scott M. Pollins of the Philadelphia law firm of Willig, Williams & Davidson.
The federal case number is 2:13-cv-06008-ER.