A decade-long employee of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, a successor
company of Sunoco Inc., is seeking $150,000 in damages relating to his job termination, which he claims was in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Richard T. Butler, Jr., a resident of Glenolden, Delaware County, filed suit on April 21 against the Philadelphia-based company alleging he was fired from his $120,000-a-year job in March 2013 as a result of “unlawful and discriminatory employment practices.”
The plaintiff, who was first hired by predecessor Sunoco in late 2003 as a control board/outside operator, suffered a physical injury during the course of his job that required him to take both short-and-long-term disability.
Specifically, Butler sustained several severely herniated discs and suffered from degenerative disc disease, medical conditions that the lawsuit says constitute as disabilities under the ADA and the Americans with Disabilities Amendment Act of 2008.
Butler first took a short-term leave of absence in early December 2011, but due to the severity of his condition he was subsequently required to utilize his long-term disability leave, according to the lawsuit.
In November 2012, the complaint states, Butler’s employer made him submit to a Functional Capacity Evaluation to evaluate the plaintiff’s ability to return to work.
The test determined that Butler was medically cleared to return to work, although the following day Butler was told that the test results were invalid and that he would be required to retake and successfully pass a second FCE on or before March 7, 2013, the deadline for him to return to work in accordance with his union’s collective bargaining agreement, according to the civil action.
After Philadelphia Energy Solutions acquired Sunoco in the fall of 2012, the record shows, Butler was told that prior to submitting to a second FCE examination he would be required to relinquish his long-term disability claim, essentially declaring himself 100 percent fit for duty.
Butler asked for the company’s written policy stating as much, but he was never given the requested information.
The correspondence to human resources suggested that if such a policy existed it may violate the ADA’s reasonable accommodations provision by requiring the plaintiff to declare himself fully fit for duty before being considered eligible to return to work, the complaint states.
The defendant ended up firing Butler on March 7 of last year, saying the termination was due to the plaintiff failing to submit to the FCE.
“The Plaintiff believes and therefore avers that the Defendants’ actions in requiring that he relinquish his rights to long-term benefits as a condition precedent to returning to work was in violation of his right to reasonable accommodations under the ADA and ADAA,” the complaint reads. “The Plaintiff believes and further avers that he was discharged as a direct result of aforesaid discriminatory policies and procedures.”
The complaint also accuses the defendant of violating the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
Butler seeks damages relating to lost wages and benefits, pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish and other pecuniary losses, in addition to punitive damages, interest, litigation costs and legal fees.
The suit was filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia by attorney Kevin I. Lovitz of The Lovitz Law Firm.
The federal case number is 2:14-cv-02290-PBT.