Hospice worker claims she was wrongfully terminated

Kelly Holleran Feb. 18, 2010, 4:53am

A Madison County woman claims Hospice of Southern Illinois wrongly terminated her after she used three months of medical leave to recover from surgery on her neck.

Kara Pinell filed a lawsuit Feb. 11 in Madison County Circuit Court against Hospice of Southern Illinois.

Pinell claims Hospice hired her on Dec. 5, 2006, as a clinical services educator.

In March 2008, Pinell spoke with her manager, Susan Woodruff, about needing to take time off work for neck surgery, which she underwent on April 11, 2008, according to the complaint.

Before the surgery, Pinell's physician completed a form verifying Pinell's surgery and her hospitalization for the following two days. Also on the form, Pinell's physician wrote she would require temporary total disability for about six to 12 weeks following the surgery, the suit states.

However, after the surgery, Pinell's physician signed another form, saying that Pinell must remain off work until re-evaluation on Sept. 18, 2008, the complaint says.

On July 7, 2008, a Hospice manager called Pinell to tell her she had exhausted her Family and Medical Leave Act time off and was thus being discharged, Pinell claims.

To make matters worse, the company continued to repeatedly call Pinell at her house to demand she sign a resignation letter even though she insisted she could not sign the letter because of her mental and physical condition, according to the complaint.

"Further, representatives from the Defendant appeared at her home unannounced and entered said home walking about looking at various items in the home and asking Plaintiff about financial condition and whether she really had to work," the suit states. "Plaintiff found this to be extremely upsetting and distressing."

Pinell contends Hospice wrongly fired her because, according to a handbook she signed when she was hired, Pinell was entitled to at least six months of medical leave and had been promised 12 months in a letter.

Because the company fired her, Pinell claims she lost wages and benefits and experienced significant emotional distress.

In her two-count suit, Pinell seeks a judgment of more than $200,000.

Greg Roosevelt of Roosevelt Law Office in Edwardsville will be representing her.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 10-L-161.

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