Huntington man accuses Asplundh of retaliation

By Kyla Asbury | Jun 15, 2015

HUNTINGTON – A Huntington man is suing Asplundh Tree Expert Co. after he claims it retaliated against him for applying for workers' compensation benefits.

Asplundh Railroad Division and Garland Plymale were also named as defendants in the suit.

Jerry Thiessen Jr. began his employment with the defendants in 1998, resigned in 2000 for family reasons and was rehired in 2002 as a foreman/field supervisor, according to a complaint filed in Cabell Circuit Court.

Thiessen claims in 2007 he was promoted to general foreman and remained in that position until his termination.

On June 20 and 21, 2014, Thiessen was working in Harpers Ferry and was lifting a 90-pound hydraulic pump up over a six-foot tire and in the process, suffered an on-the-job injury to his back and legs, according to the suit.

Thiessen claims on June 24, 2014, he returned to Huntington, where he went to the emergency room at Cabell Huntington Hospital and, after explaining the injury to the staff, he was directed to complete an occupational injury form.

Originally, Thiessen completed an Ohio injury form because Asplundh was located in Ironton, but a few months later he was directed to complete a West Virginia injury form because the injury took place in West Virginia, according to the suit.

Thiessen claims he was off work for a couple of months and the defendants continued to pay his regular paycheck and he worked from home making phone calls, e-mails, keeping in contact with his crews and doing whatever was necessary within his limitations in his management role.

On Aug. 29, hospital staff gave Thiessen a West Virginia Workers' Compensation Employees' and Physicians' Report of Occupational Injury or Disease to complete and report with his employer and he turned the form in to Plymale and Kevin Styles, according to the suit.

Thiessen claims between Aug. 29 and Nov. 21, he continued to work from home receiving paychecks and continuing to operate as manager from his home.

In November, Thiessen received medical bills that had not been paid, despite the defendants assurances they would be paid, and, after inquiring at the hospital, Cabell sent him a new workers' compensation form, which he completed and returned to the hospital and resubmitted to his employer.

Thiessen claims between November and February, he remained in constant contact with his managers, however, on Jan. 28, Plymale mailed a termination letter to him for abandoning his position since he had "been out of communication since August 28, 2014."

The plaintiff received the letter on Feb. 5 and immediately called Plymale, who reiterated all the items he listed in the letter and told him he would meet him to discuss his future, according to the suit.

Thiessen claims Plymale never followed up or called him and when Thiessen called him multiple times, Plymale ignored the phone calls.

The defendants violated West Virginia code by discriminating against Thiessen and terminating his employment when he had an on-the-job injury, according to the suit.

Thiessen claims the defendants also violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act and violated substantial public policy for retaliating against him and terminating his employment.

Thiessen is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre-judgment interest. He is being represented by Abraham J. Saad of Saad Dixon Law Offices PLLC.

The case is assigned to Circuit Judge F. Jane Hustead.

Cabell Circuit Court case number: 15-C-372

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