A former animal care technician who worked for the University of
Pennsylvania for a year-and-a-half is suing the Ivy League institution for alleged wrongful termination.
Acelyn Zankman, who lives in Philadelphia, filed a federal civil complaint in U.S. District Court Nov. 21 against the university challenging her firing this past January.
The plaintiff, who was first hired by the defendant in the summer of 2011, says the university told her she was losing her job because of excessive absences, and also because she once inadvertently placed food in the wrong room of animals.
Zankman, however, maintains that she was actually terminated from her position because she requested some special medical accommodations, such as intermittent time off from work to deal with her bipolar disorder.
The woman’s mental health disorder and other health complications caused her the need to take medical leave from time to time, the lawsuit states, and it got to the point where she needed to be hospitalized due to her disabilities from about Oct. 14 to Oct. 21 of last year.
Zankman claims she informed the defendant about her hospitalization and that she was soon able to return to work.
While she didn’t miss work between Oct. 21 of last year and Jan. 8 of this year, the plaintiff says she was nevertheless told she’d be terminated on Jan. 8, primarily due to her “excessive” absences, according to the civil action.
As for the issue with placing animals’ food in the incorrect room, the lawsuit claims that the university never terminated other employees for making that same mistake.
“While Defendant claimed that Plaintiff was terminated for her isolated mistake, Plaintiff was really terminated due to her known or perceived health problems, because she requested some medical accommodations in the form of intermittent time off from work, and/or in retaliation for taking protected medical leave,” the complaint reads.
The suit says that Zankman has been treated for her disabilities for many years, and that her issues have, at times, limited her ability to enjoy life’s many functions, including thinking, concentrating and communicating.
The University of Pennsylvania is accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
The suit contains counts of disability discrimination, retaliation, failure to accommodate, and interference and retaliation.
Zankman seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as attorney’s fees and costs.
She is being represented by Bucks County employment attorney Ari R. Karpf.
The federal case number is 2:13-cv-06756-RB.