A U.S. District Court recently awarded $2.45 million in damages to John Hayes, a former employee of SkyWest Airlines, in a wrongful termination lawsuit. In the case, Hayes alleged the company had engaged in discrimination and wrongful termination. The verdict included $450,000 in actual damages and $2 million in punitive damages.
The issue began when Hayes started to suffer from kidney failure. After starting dialysis, he returned to work on August 20, 2014, but was suspended because he suffered from lightheadedness shortly thereafter. His doctor had said such symptoms are common for people returning to work after dialysis and cleared him to work, but SkyWest refused to accommodate him.
SkyWest claimed his firing was part of mass layoffs the airline made at Denver International Airport that fall. However, Hayes’ attorneys presented evidence suggesting there were financial reasons for SkyWest to place Hayes on involuntary leave and then fire him. SkyWest is self-insured, and dialysis treatments could cost up to $100,000 per year. Hayes then applied for several other positions at SkyWest, but was always rejected.
The jury sided with Hayes on every claim, including that SkyWest engaged in wrongful termination, retaliation and violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
You have a right to take leave to recover from medical treatments and to get your job back when you return if you are physically capable of performing it. An employer who fires a worker simply to avoid paying for healthcare costs or because of that employee’s status as a person with disabilities would likely be liable for wrongful termination.
For more information about how to proceed with a wrongful termination claim, contact an experienced Dallas attorney at Whistleblower Law for Managers.