Employee says district fired her after back injury kept her at home

A former executive assistant to a school superintendent claims that she was wrongfully terminated after injuring her back at work. She worked in the district for 20 years before she was fired in 2009.

After back surgery in 2006 and non-work related back injuries the following year, the employee was forced to walk with a cane. She was injured again in October 2008, this time in a high school classroom where she was to teach a class. As she entered the classroom, she put her cane down on an uncovered electrical outlet and fell. Her injuries kept her from work, but the district denied her workers’ compensation claim.

Two months later, the district informed her that she had exhausted all available leave. A mother after that, the district gave her an ultimatum: She was to get her doctor’s permission to return to work or the district would fire her.

Her doctor determined that she could gradually return to her full work duties, but a couple of months later the district fired her. In her wrongful discharge lawsuit, she further claims that school district officials blamed her for the employer’s high insurance rates and said that she served as a “drag” on the district. She claims that the school district wanted to replace her with a person who did not have a disability and one whom they can pay less.

The school district denies the accusations. In court documents, the district claims that the job was a full-time position, and she was fired because she could not work full-time. The district says, too, that it offered a part-time job at the time that the employee refused.

The employee claims wrongful termination and breach of contract. Her husband joins her as a plaintiff because he had relied on her income.

A jury trial is scheduled for April 2013.

Source: Concord Monitor, “Staffer claims wrongful firing: Woman says injury led to termination,” Laura McCrystal, July 18, 2012

Our firm handles similar situations to the one discussed in this post. If you would like to learn more about our practice, please visit our Wisconsin employment law page.

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