Former legal assistant sues Philly law firm for alleged FMLA violations

By Jim Boyle | Aug 21, 2014

A Philadelphia woman says that her termination from the Anapol Schwartz law firm was an

act of retaliation after she successfully applied for time off from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act, according to a federal suit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Lois Ulmer seeks damages for two alleged violations of the FMLA, including interfering with her right to invoke the law to protect her absence from work.

The suit says that in March 2013 Ulmer, a legal assistant for Anapol Schwartz, began to feel heart palpitations and light-headedness. On March 29, she began a week-long stay at the hospital for cardiac care related to her medical condition. Ulmer immediately notified her supervisor, the complaint says, and called again when doctors told her to take more time off to recover at home. When Ulmer returned to work in mid-April, her absences were noted as FMLA-designated leave.

Approximately a month later, Ulmer was notified that her daughter was suffering from a neurological condition and needed emergency care. She left work early to take her daughter to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and remained out of work for the next 10 to 12 days. The complaint says that Ulmer stayed in communication with her supervisors, telling them that she needed the time off to continue caring for her daughter, but did not have an exact date when she could return to work.

On May 31, 2013, Ulmer's daughter was discharged, but her medical condition worsened over the weekend. On the following Monday, she had to return to the hospital for treatment of an abcess that developed on her back. That same morning, the complaint says, Ulmer received a call from her supervisor, who informed her that she had been terminated because she did not call out of work.

Ulmer attempted to explain the situation and request that the day off be designated as FMLA, the suit says, but her manager refused and said it was impossible to rescind the termination.

The suit says that Ulmer's firing was in retaliation for her need to take three weeks of FMLA-designated time to care for her and her daughter's medical conditions. By considering her FMLA-designated absences in their decision to terminate her employment, Anapol Schwartz interfered with Ulmer's right to use the law to protect her job status.

The plaintiff is represented by Manali Arora and Richard Swartz of Swartz Swidler in Cherry Hill, N.J.

The federal case ID number is 2:14-cv-04873-MMB.

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