Boss Told Worker with Heart Condition Not to Die at His Desk
Company refused to reduce staffer’s hours after heart surgery
Reducing stress is often the first piece of advice that doctors give patients
who are dealing with heart conditions.
However, sometimes supervisors who are under pressure to meet deadlines
and quotas may have very little sympathy for workers’ stress reduction
plans. In those cases, workers may feel that they have to choose between
following their doctor’s orders or their supervisor’s.
The question is, what recourse do employees have when their employer refuses
to honor their doctor’s work instructions? Let’s take a look
at a recent case for some insight.
Overtime no matter what
Terry Baier was used to working long hours in his job as a car saleman.
Over several years he worked his way up through the ranks, eventually
earning the position of General Sales Manager of Oak Brook Toyota.
However, one day Baier was forced to realize that he couldn’t keep
up the pace any longer. He began having chest pains and was rushed to
the hospital for emergency open-heart surgery.
Baier took a total of 12 weeks off under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
When he went back to work, he brought in a doctor’s note stating
that he could only work for a total of 40 hours per week. The supervisor
ignored the instructions and repeatedly scheduled Baier for 11-hour shifts,
often for six days a week. Baier complained but his supervisor wouldn’t
relent. “That’s your job,” the supervisor allegedly
said to Bair. He also repeatedly hounded Baier about when he’d be
“back to 100%.”
Another supervisor warned Baier not to die at his desk. He told Baier that
if he did, they’d drag his body outside to a ditch near the road.
The same man was also overheard complaining that “There was no F-ing
way that Terry Baier was going to drop dead on [my] watch at Oak Brook
Not long after that, company owner heard Baier use profanity in front of
a new employee. He threatened to demote Baier over the incident.
Baier was fired the next day.
Retaliation over restrictions
Baier contacted a lawyer. He sued the company, claiming that the company
violated both the FMLA and the Americans with Disabilities Act. He alleged
that he’d been fired in retaliation for using FMLA leave and for
requesting intermittent leave to work a reduced schedule. He pointed out
that he’d never had a disciplinary issue prior to his heart incident.
The company attempted to have the case thrown out, but the court refused.
A jury ruled in Baier’s favor. He was awarded $2.1 million dollars,
including $1.5 million for punitive damages. The court later reduced Baier’s
total award to $1.3 million.
(For more information on this case, see Baier v. Rohr-Mont Motors, Inc.)
What it means to you
It’s important to know that you don’t have to put up with unlawful
retaliation after taking medical leave or requesting job accommodations.
If you feel that you haven’t been treated in accordance with the
law, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.