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Fired worker may proceed with retaliation suit


A worker who was terminated after filing a workers compensation claim in part due to stress may proceed with his claim that his filing was retaliatory.

In Sood v. Tempur Sealy International Inc., the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina on Monday held that the worker could proceed with his claims retaliation for filing a workers comp claim and hostile work environment claims based on a disability, but dismissed his emotional distress charge.

Ajit “Bobby” Sood worked as a senior product engineer for Lexington, Kentucky-based Tempur Sealy. In 2018, he was asked to take on the role of another colleague in addition to his own, and said the increased workload caused him significant physical and emotional stress, fatigue and exhaustion. He told his supervisor that he was intending to file a workers compensation claim relating to his injury and work stress, and claimed that later that month, he was reprimanded for failing to perform his job duties.

In March, he suffered an occupational injury while tearing down mattresses at an event and filed a workers comp claim. His physician and psychiatrist determined that he was fully disabled between March 28 and June 10, at which point he returned to work. On June 13, he was threatened with termination for poor performance and fired on June 28.

The court held that Mr. Sood could proceed with his claim of retaliation for filing a workers comp claim. Although more than 90 days had elapsed between Mr. Sood’s filing of his workers compensation claim and his termination — which Maryland courts have typically found to be too long a time period to establish a close temporal connection between a filing and an adverse action — the court noted that Mr. Sood had been on medical leave for most of the time and ultimately worked fewer than 40 days after the filing of his claim before he was terminated. The court also found that Mr. Sood “arguably suffered his first adverse employment action” when he was placed on a performance improvement plan one day after informing his supervisor of his workers comp claim, and that the action could “support a reasonable inference of a causal connection between the claim and (Mr.) Sood’s ultimate termination.”

The court also found it plausible that Mr. Sood was harassed due to his disability and held that he could proceed on that claim, but dismissed his claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.






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