Former Employee Sues After Losing His Job Because of COVID

A former marketing director who claimed he wasn't allowed to return to work after his bout with COVID-19 despite having medical clearance to do so sued Nursing home operator Alaris Health LLC.

Shakespeare Domenech alleged his termination was either retaliation for using disability leave while he battled the virus or discrimination based on the perception that he was still infected, according to his Jan. 6 New Jersey state court complaint.

A former clinical community physician marketing director for the New Jersey-based company, Domenech also alleged that Alaris didn't provide workers with personal protective equipment at certain facilities and asked him to do nursing work even though his license had expired.

"Plaintiff was the subject of a retaliatory termination in violation of the Conscientious Employee Protection Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination," the complaint said.

Domenech is seeking compensatory damages; lost pay, wages and benefits; damages for mental distress; punitive damages; and attorney fees.

According to the complaint, Domenech began working at Alaris in December 2017 and had "favorable job performance" in his position.

When the pandemic prevented him from visiting community centers, doctors' offices, hospitals, recreation centers and other locations, he claimed a supervisor "pressured" him into signing a new job description that included admissions and liaison work.

Domenech's nursing license had expired, but his supervisors still asked him to work as a nurse at the company's Kearny, New Jersey, facility, where there were active COVID-19 cases, according to the complaint. Domenech objected because he cares for his elderly, immunosuppressed father, the complaint said.

Domenech claimed he was then asked to work as a nurse at Alaris' Rahway, New Jersey, facility, where he discovered that personal protective equipment wasn't being provided. He objected to the director of nursing on the grounds that his nursing license had expired and that personal protective equipment wasn't being provided, the complaint said.

On April 3, Domenech tested positive for COVID-19 and took a medical leave of absence, the complaint said. After he recovered, he informed his supervisor via email on May 15 that he wished to return to work and asked that he be allowed to work remotely to avoid reinfection and to keep his father safe.

The supervisor replied that he couldn't work remotely but that he could take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act to protect his father, the complaint said. Domenech couldn't afford to take off, so he visited a physician and got medical clearance to return to work, according to the complaint.

Domenech reported to the Rahway location, as he had been previously instructed by his supervisor, only to be sent home on the grounds that he was not approved to return to work, the complaint said. He claimed his email account was later terminated and he received no response to his multiple inquiries about his job status.

If you or someone you know has lost a job because of COVID there may be legal help available. Contact our New Jersey employment attorneys at Burnham Douglass Law Group to learn more about your rights.

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