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 Toyota.”
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.