PHILADELPHIA – Urban Outfitters Inc. defended its treatment of employees when asked for a response to a complaint filed by a former employee who raised allegations that the company violated the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“URBN takes the health, safety and rights of its employees very seriously,” Urban Outfitters told the Pennsylvania Record through its public relations department.
In addition, the company said it helps employees with a disability or other health concerns.
“Among other things, URBN is strongly committed to assisting employees who may have a disability, or who encounter a personal of family health issue, to find a reasonable accommodation or with time off to care for themselves or their families,” Urban Outfitters said.
However, the company declined to comment specifically on the allegations raised in the lawsuit filed by former employee Eric Boston.
“With respect to (the Pennsylvania Record’s) specific questions about this case, URBN’s policy is not to comment on ongoing litigation,” the company said.
Boston’s attorney, Manali Arora of Swartz Swidler LLC also declined comment, citing her firm’s policy not to comment while litigation is pending.
In the complaint filed Sept. 7 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Boston claimed that Urban Outfitters fired him because he exercised his rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that his employment was terminated in 2015 to punish him for asking the company to make accommodations for his anxiety, which was diagnosed about five months after he was hired as a kitchen chef by Urban Outfitters in January 2012.
Because of a change in the medication he was taking to treat his anxiety, Boston said his doctor ordered him to take two weeks off from work to adjust to the new medication.
The plaintiff said he immediately notified his supervisor and Urban Outfitters’ executive chef that he would need to take leave in connection with his medical condition, but no one at Urban Outfitters notified him of his right to take a leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act and the defendant did not classify the plaintiff’s absence as being protected under the act.
Boston said he gave his supervisor a note from his doctor when he returned to work and told Urban Outfitters that his anxiety made it difficult to interact directly with customers. As a result, Boston said he asked the company to reassign him to a grill chef or middle line cook position, which required less interaction with customers than the sandwich and pizza station, where he had been previously working.
Although Urban Outfitters allegedly often reassigned kitchen chefs to different stations within the cafeteria, and despite four requests for reassignment, Boston claims the company refused his request.
Boston was fired on Sept. 24, 2015, the suit says, adding that the company claimed the plaintiff was fired in response to a customer complaint. However, Boston said he had never been disciplined in connection with a customer complaint before he was fired and had received only positive performance reviews throughout the course of his employment.
According to Boston’s complaint, co-workers who received customer complaints in the past had only been subject to “minor discipline.”
Boston is seeking reimbursement of lost pay and benefits, damages related to the company’s alleged “willful, deliberate, malicious and outrageous conduct,” and damages related to the plaintiff’s emotional distress.