Former Employee Sues Over FMLA Violations Relating to COVID-19 Leave

A former employee filed suit against HCA Healthcare, LLC (HealthONE), on Friday in the District of Colorado. Slankard filed suit after he was “retaliated against for engaging in the protected activity of taking intermittent Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave and wrongfully terminated in violation of public policy for participating in his spouse’s Worker’s Compensation claim with Defendant.”

The plaintiff began his employment with HealthONE in June of 2019 as a patient care technician. His spouse, Ricky Todd Slankard, was also employed by the defendant as a registered nurse. As a result of their exposure to COVID-19 patients during the pandemic, both Slankard and his spouse contracted COVID-19 in October 2020 and filed for continuous leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Their requests were approved by HealthONE.

When the plaintiff returned to work in January 2021, he informed his manager that his spouse was still experiencing complications from COVID-19, including “serious neurological and cardiovascular complications, diabetes, and sleep apnea” which sometimes required his emergency care and attention. Due to these circumstances, the plaintiff sought intermittent FMLA leave to care for his spouse. He obtained this leave from February to August of 2021.

As a result of the Slankard’s continued leave to care for his spouse, he filed a Worker’s Compensation claim in order to pay for the medical expenses, which was denied by the defendant. Following this denial, the plaintiff asserts that his work environment became “highly contentious and hostile.” Slankard was required to meet with human resources to discuss the Worker’s Compensation claim, and immediately afterwards an investigation was launched into his job performance.

Slankard was later informed that due to the results of the investigation, he would be suspended without pay pending more results. 4 days later, the plaintiff was terminated for “practicing outside his scope” despite never begin given a probationary period or opportunity for redress. The misconduct by HealthONE towards Slankard exhibited a “reckless disregard for his rights” and caused him “substantial economic and non-economic damages.”

The complaint cites FMLA interference, FMLA retaliation, wrongful termination in violation of public policy, and promissory estoppel. Slankard is seeking front and back pay, benefits, economic losses, for his previous position to be restored, damages, pre- and post-judgement interest, as well as any other relief deemed proper by the court.

The plaintiff is represented by Bryan Kuhn Law.