Welder claims he was wrongfully fired

Kelly Holleran Sep. 25, 2008, 7:24am

A Belleville employee has filed suit against Gunlach Equipment Corporation, claiming he was wrongfully fired after filing for workers' compensation benefits.

David Engel had worked as a full-time welder since June 2, 1969, making $21.09 per hour for a company that was later bought out by Gunlach Equipment, according to a complaint filed Sept. 17 in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

On Aug. 1, 2007, Engel tore his rotator cuff in his right shoulder, but continued to work until his doctor told him not to, the suit states.

Engel claims that on the advice of his doctor, he went on Worker's Compensation leave from Oct. 27, 2007, until he was fired Feb. 29.

He had planned on retiring Jan. 3 and put in a notice Dec. 3, but changed his mind after speaking with Sandra Harris, the safety director, according to the complaint.

"On February 27, 2009, Plaintiff had an oral discussion with Carrie Little, Human Relations Specialist for the Defendant, in which he was told that he was fired for exceeding his Family Medical Leave Act rights," the suit states.

But Engel claims he never filled out any paperwork or exercised his FMLA rights.

"On February 29, 2008, without the consent, assent, or signature of the Plaintiff, Ms. Little created an 'Employee Change Notice' which stated that Plaintiff is retiring and his last day would be 2/29/08," the suit states.

Engel was terminated the same day, according to the complaint.

He claims he was fired because he enacted his rights under the Worker's Compensation Act.

Engel is seeking a judgment in excess of $50,000, plus costs of the suit.

Paul M. Storment, III, of Belleville will be representing him.

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