PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in June ruled not to dismiss a former Amerihealth Caritas employee’s retaliation claims.
The court granted Amerihealth’s motion to dismiss a sexual orientation discrimination claim, but left the door open for plaintiff Justin Coleman to file an amended sex discrimination claim if he felt the legal precedent cited in the June 2 ruling applied to his claim.
It also left intact his claims under the Family Medical Leave Act, Americans with Disabilities Act and Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance.
“Coleman alleges that he was discriminated against and ultimately terminated based on his requests for medical and family leave, disabilities and gender/sexual orientation,” the district court said in its opinion.
According to the order, Coleman, who is gay, alleged that he was “verbally harassed” by another Amerihealth Caritas employee. In addition, Coleman claimed that the co-worker hit him while at work and threatened “I’ll punch you in your face.”
Coleman said he reported the co-worker’s alleged harassment, but his supervisors “attempted to dissuade Coleman from reporting the attacks and comments to human resources.” Despite the attempt to stop him from reporting the incidents, Coleman did take his complaints to the company’s human resources department, and the co-worker was fired.
After that, Coleman alleged that his supervisors also began to make discriminatory comments to him.
In addition to the alleged harassment, Coleman began to take periodic FMLA leave for “digestive issues” and to take care of his sick mother.
As a result of his leave requests, Coleman alleged that he was denied a choice of shifts and a promotion. Coleman was fired shortly after his final FMLA leave request.
“In its motion to dismiss, Amerihealth argues that Coleman has not shown that his termination was retaliation for taking FMLA leave,” the district court said in its ruling. “The court disagrees."
The court said it also did not agree with the company’s argument that Coleman did not provide sufficient evidence of discrimination and retaliation under the ADA and PFPO.
Coleman’s attorneys, James A. Bell IV and Christopher A. Macey Jr., both of Bell & Bell LLP, did not respond to requests for comment on the case.