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Mass. jury awards $1.2 million in medical leave case

A Suffolk County jury slapped the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) with a $1.2 million verdict yesterday because it discriminated against an employee who needed medical leave.

The employee, a data resources manager, suffered from nerve tumors in his feet which required surgery and recovery time. The employee had a pre-planned vacation to Mexico scheduled for the period of time he was going to be recovering from his surgery. His doctor said he could go on the vacation and he told MWRA about the vacation when he requested medical leave. Even though his doctor cleared him to go to Mexico during his medical leave, MWRA fired him supposedly for going to Mexico during his medical leave.

The employee’s lawyer argued to the jury that MWRA’s claimed reason for firing the employee was illogical, false, and just a pretext to fire him because he needed medical leave. Given the verdict, the jury obviously bought the employee’s lawyer’s argument.

Many employers react in the same way as MWRA when they have employees who take medical leave. These employers think that if an employee does anything but stay at home or go to the doctor during medical leave, he is “gaming the system.” Of course, this cynical attitude toward employees is not rooted in reality. There is often no inconsistency between an employee’s need to take time away from work for medical reasons and the employee’s ability to go on vacation or do other leisurely activities. While many employers do not understand this, this Suffolk County jury obviously did.

The Maine Employee Rights Group often represents employees who face discrimination or mistreatment from their employers because they need medical leave. If you have experienced problems at work because you need medical leave, contact us to learn more about your rights.