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Court affirms dismissal of retaliation, bias suit

Court affirms dismissal of retaliation, bias suit

The Supreme Court of Nebraska on Friday affirmed an earlier district court ruling that found no proof that a hospital worker was fired because she filed a workers compensation claim after falling in the parking lot and that a statute of limitations barred her from suing for discrimination for not being accommodated after her injury.

The woman worked in the finance department for the Regional West Medical Center in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, when she fell in the parking lot after leaving work. She filed a workers comp claim the next day, according to documents in Melinda J. Brown v. Regional West Medical Center. 

She was cleared to return to work in early 2012 but has not returned, requesting further leave, citing limited use of her hand, according to documents. She was later placed on furlough and subsequently invited to apply for a new position with the hospital system, records state.

In December 2012, the woman filed a charge of discrimination with the Nebraska Equal Opportunity Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging violations of the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act on the basis that “she was denied reasonable accommodations and that her employment was ultimately terminated… due to her disability.”

In March 2013, the state commission issued a "right to sue" notice on the discrimination charge.

The woman then filed a complaint in the district court for Scotts Bluff County, alleging state and federal violations stemming from “wrongful termination and failure to accommodate her disability,” records state. She further alleged that the hospital system “retaliated against her for filing a workers compensation claim.” In turn, the hospital “denied the majority of (her) allegations and asserted the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense.”

The statute of limitations is 300 days under both federal and state law, thus Nebraska’s highest court ruled in favor of the hospital system, as the woman did not file the claim on time.

As for the retaliation complaint, the five-judge state Supreme Court panel agreed with an earlier ruling that found the employee “could not establish that a causal link existed between her termination of employment and the filing of her workers compensation claim. There was no real temporal proximity, as (she) filed her workers compensation claim on or about Aug. 17, 2011, and (the hospital) did not place her on furlough until approximately 20 weeks later. She was then administratively discharged one year after her first absence. The evidence showed that (the employer’s) decisions were based on the expiration of (her) leave balances, in accordance with its policies and procedures, and consistent with how it treated other similarly situated employees.”





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