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Woman sues Shaw’s, claiming wrongful termination over illness

Last modified: 7/28/2013 12:57:29 AM
A former employee of the Fort Eddy Road Shaw’s has filed a lawsuit claiming the company fired her in 2010 rather than making modest accommodations in light of an illness that caused her to be late for work periodically.

When she lost her job, now 32-year-old Sarah Parker also lost the health insurance needed to cover her steep medical expenses, the Hillsboro woman’s lawyer said yesterday. Attorneys at the firm representing the Massachusetts-based supermarket chain did not return a message left yesterday, and the company has not yet filed a response to Parker’s lawsuit at U.S. District Court in Concord.

Parker, a mother of two, began working as the bakery manager at the Fort Eddy Road supermarket in 2009 after working at other locations with the company since 2000, according to her lawsuit. Parker says that soon after she started at the Concord store, she was given a disciplinary warning for being late on three occasions.

According to the lawsuit, Parker was occasionally unable to report to work on time due to several illnesses that essentially kept her body from absorbing nutrients, leading to weight loss and fatigue. Leslie Nixon, Parker’s lawyer, said she was rarely more than 20 minutes late, but that a few times Parker arrived about an hour after her scheduled start time.

But Nixon said the company should have been able to accommodate the late arrivals because Parker was a manager at the bakery and many of her duties, such as ordering supplies and coordinating displays, could have been completed outside of her scheduled hours.

“A lot of her job could be accomplished in off hours,” Nixon said. “She didn’t necessarily have to be there during the entire time that the store was open.”

According to the lawsuit, Parker’s doctor explained her medical condition to the company, writing in a note that due to extreme muscle pain and fatigue, “just getting out of bed in the morning . . . requires tremendous will and often a significant period of time.” Then in February 2010, Parker applied and received clearance to reduce her hours under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. The act, meant to help those dealing with personal or family illness, allowed her to take off unpaid hours while protecting her job security.

Nixon said Parker believed that any time she missed when showing up late for work would be counted as unpaid time under that agreement.

“The accommodation was to allow her to basically have flexible hours so she would be able to come in late on occasion when it was necessary,” Nixon said.

Instead, Parker contends that she was terminated in June 2010 when she continued to be late for work. Nixon said Parker filed a complaint with the New Hampshire Commission for Human Rights, which is responsible for investigating discrimination claims and determining whether there is probable cause before a lawsuit is filed. But due to staffing shortages and budget cuts, the commission never investigated the claim, Nixon said.

With the three-year statute of limitations approaching, Nixon said she and Parker were able to withdraw their discrimination complaint and file their recent lawsuit. In it, Parker is claiming Shaw’s discriminated against her under the Americans with Disabilities Act, failed to accommodate her disability, retaliated against her because of her illness and violated the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Nixon said Parker will be seeking financial damages including lost wages, medical expenses and compensation for emotional distress.

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @tricia_nadolny.)


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