On Thursday, a former employee filed a complaint against TriStar Health Systems in the Middle District of Tennessee. Olivia Miller accused her former employer of disability discrimination and retaliation, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Tennessee Disabilities Act (TDA) after she returned from FMLA leave.
The plaintiff said she began her employment with the defendant in 2011 as the Cancer Conference Coordinator. She carried out the duties of that position for almost 10 years without incident. As a result of this disability, Miller was forced to take time off from January 21, 2020, until July 2020. Upon her return from the leave, Miller claims that she began experiencing the retaliatory behavior and discrimination from her employers.
During her employment Miller was qualified for protections under the ADA due to her psychological disorder, which the plaintiff explained “affects major life activities of caring for oneself, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working.” The disability also affects her psychological and neurological systems.
Allegedly, the issues began when Miller returned to work and found that her computer was not running properly because of how long it had remained off-network. She alerted her supervisor and also got in touch with IT to fix the issue. “Despite reporting these issues, she was given a verbal warning for not completing an assignment by a deadline, however completion was impossible without the use of a laptop computer,” the complaint said. Miller tried to explain that IT directed her to send in the old one and wait for a replacement but she claimed that her supervisor continued to give her a difficult time.
Miller said her supervisor was “antagonistic and unhelpful,” on a conference call and blamed her for missing the deadline. The supervisor reportedly said: “well then I guess you just can’t work,” and “if you don’t have a computer you can’t work, and we are not just handing out laptops.” When the plaintiff approached her director about the issue, she was informed that “she could not work nor be paid for an indefinite amount of time until the laptop was fixed.” She reported to HR that she was laughed at by her supervisor and director when she asked if she could be paid while the laptop was being fixed.
The plaintiff’s doctor became increasingly concerned about her mental health as a result of these issues and submitted a letter to HR requesting more flexibility with deadlines and work hours. On July 30, the doctor recommended another full-time leave to adjust to new medication. Her employer told her she could go and that they would deal with paperwork.
Within a month, Ms. Miller received a letter saying she was fired because she abandoned her position. Ms. Miller later learned that the TPA, a third party administrator, said it had not received the doctor’s paperwork but it approved the leave after the papers were resubmitted. Despite gaining retroactive approval, the plaintiff continued to be denied employment.
The plaintiff said she believes that this behavior on the part of the defendant violated multiple laws designed to protect her and requested back pay, compensation for her trouble, and for her position to be returned to her.
The plaintiff is represented by Collins & Hunter.