West Virginia Record

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Wirt woman says Wal-Mart wrongfully fired her

By Kelly Holleran | Oct 6, 2008

CHARLESTON -- A Wirt County woman has filed suit against Wal-Mart, alleging she was wrongfully fired after she used her Family and Medical Leave Act multiple times.

Arlene Jett took medical leave from the store to care for her son, who was born in October 2003, according to the original complaint filed in Wood Circuit Court.

Her son had a rare bowel disorder, necessitating 12 months of hospitalization and several surgeries, the suit states.

In 2006, she took time off because of her, her husband's and her son's medical conditions, she claims.

Jett claims her husband is disabled and suffers from several serious health conditions, including chronic high blood pressure and neck and back injuries.

Jett has been diagnosed with Crohn's Disease and depression, according to the suit.

She again took six weeks of unpaid leave in February 2007 after her husband underwent surgery, according to the complaint.

Jett had been working at a Virginia Wal-Mart since Sept. 12, 1994. She transferred to the Parkersburg store in August 2002, according to the complaint.

Throughout her employment, Jett continually received good performance evaluations and raises, the suit states.

But in August 2004, after Jett had been on her first medical leave, she claims she was reprimanded for absenteeism. Jett's supervisor told her she was going to be given a "decision-making day," she claims.

Jett protested because the reason for her leave had to do with son's health condition, according to the complaint.

She called her regional personnel manager and was told that an investigation would take place, the suit states.

Jett claims the manager later told her she could take intermittent medical leave, but that she was never given any information about FMLA.

Jett was told to maintain her own records and to keep track of how much FMLA leave she had left, which she did, according to the complaint.

In March 2005, Jett transferred to the Cleveland Wal-Mart so she could be closer to her son who was in the Cleveland Clinic, the suit states.

The store's assistant manager again warned Jett about her absences after her 2006 time off, according to the complaint.

But Jett brought in her books that tracked her FMLA leave and believed the issue was solved, the suit states.

In 2007, after her husband's surgery, Jett claims she was not allowed any time to take her husband to follow-up appointments with his physican, but still took days to help him and her son.

"She also missed several days due to her own serious health conditions," the suit states.

In July 2007, Jett was handed a written warning, according to the complaint.

Jett claims she again asked if she was allowed to bring in her books and also complained that her management was not keeping track of her FMLA time even though she always gave a reason for her absences.

Her assistant manager told her the store had changed its attendance tracking procedures, and on Aug. 18, 2007, she was placed on a one-day suspension, according to the complaint.

She protested the action, saying most of her absences were due to medical leave, the suit states.

She claims she called the district personnel manager, who told her he would wipe her absences off her record.

In January, Jett was ringing up a customer who was using a WIC voucher to pay for infant formula, according to the complaint.

"Plaintiff misread the voucher and failed to notice that the customer was actually buying a different type of formula than the one covered by the voucher," the suit states.

Jett claims the computer also did not notify her of her mistake.

As a result, her drawer came up $80 short, according to the complaint.

About two weeks later, on Feb. 14, Jett was fired for the incident, the suit states.

At the time she was fired, Jett claims she was told such actions normally result in only a warning, but because of her absences, she was being fired.

Because of her termination, Jett has lost wages and benefits and out-of-pocket expenses, according to the complaint.

She has also suffered emotional and mental distress, humiliation, anxiety, embarrassment, depression, aggravation, annoyance and inconvenience, the suit states.

Jett is seeking the court enter a judgment declaring Wal-Mart's actions to be in violation of public policy.

She is also seeking an injunction ordering the store to establish an on-going training program for its employees on the subject of disability discrimination and medical leave.

Jett is seeking back pay, including all the benefits for which she eligible, and that she be reinstated as a Wal-Mart employee.

She is seeking unspecified compensatory, liquidated and punitive damages, plus the costs of the suit and pre- and post-judgment interest.

Upon Wal-Mart's request, the case has been moved to federal court.

David L. Grubb and Kristina Thomas Whiteaker of The Grubb Law Group in Charleston will be representing her.

Eric E. Kinder and Ellen J. Vance of Spilman Thomas & Battle will be representing Wal-Mart.

U.S. District Court case number: 6:08-1110

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