Man says furniture store fired him after job injury

By Cara Bailey | Feb 16, 2007

CHARLESTON - A Kanawha County man claims he was fired from his job because of an injury he sustained while working and the time he needed off because of the injury.

Christopher E. Dawson filed a suit Feb. 5 in Kanawha Circuit Court against Wells Home Furnishings. Dawson was a full-time employee of Wells.

In October 2005, Dawson injured his knee while moving a piece of furniture. As a result of his injury he was placed on temporary leave, and received workers' compensation. He returned to light duty in November 2005.

"Upon returning to work, (Dawson) informed his supervisor, Carl Curry, that he may need surgery to his injured knee should physical therapy prove to be unsuccessful," the suit says.

Dawson returned to regular duty in December 2005 and was assigned to work as a customer service technician. He was promised a pay increase, from $9 to $12 an hour. During that month, Dawson's physician determined he needed surgery on his knee.

The surgery was approved by Workers' Compensation and scheduled for Aug. 28, 2006. Dawson notified his supervisors about the surgery and the time off he would need.

"After providing this information to Wells, (Dawson) began noticing that he was being treated differently than before," the suit says.

Dawson, an Army reservist, left for his annual two-week training in July 2006, and upon his return was told his position as a customer service technician has been filled and that he would be working as a warehouse worker, and would not be receiving his previously promised pay increase.

The new position required heavy lifting despite Wells' knowledge of Dawson's knee injury.

Curry informed Dawson that his warehouse position would be open for him while he was out due to the surgery. A week later Dawson was moved to a delivery truck position, and told it was temporary, and he would return to the warehouse position.

The suit says the truck driver position was more strenuous and put more strain on Dawson's knee. Also, while he was working as a truck driver, his position in the warehouse was filled.

In August 2006, Dawson had surgery, and was cleared to return to work on Nov. 13, 2006.

Around the second week of October, "Johnny Wells contacted (Dawson) at home to inform him that the employee who had filled the customer service technician position had quit and that they were really backed up," the suit says.

Wells asked Dawson to return early and said he would make it so Dawson would not have to do any heavy lifting if he would return for a couple days a week to help the company get caught up.

Dawsom reminded Wells that he was still on workers' compensation, so it would be illegal for him to work.

"Mr. Wells got angry with (Dawson's) response and stated, "Well I guess this just isn't going to work out," and hung up the phone," the suit says.

Dawson returned to work on Nov. 13, 2006, where he learned he was fired, with a letter stating, "due to the amount of time that you have been off of work during your knee surgery rehabilitation we have had to fill your position."

Dawson seeks back pay, including benefits and front pay, including benefits, as well as compensatory damages. He also seeks compensatory damages and court costs. Dawson demands a trial by jury.

Attorney Matthew S. Criswell is representing Dawson, and the case has been assigned to Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-243

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