Edward D. Jones employee claims she was harassed and fired after breast cancer diagnosis

Kelly Holleran Aug. 31, 2011, 10:53am

A Madison County woman has filed suit against Edward D. Jones and Company, alleging she was wrongly fired and harassed after she developed breast cancer.

Lisa Novak claims she worked for Edward D. Jones and Company for about 10 years before she was terminated.

In her complaint filed Aug. 11 in Madison County Circuit Court, Novak alleges she learned she had breast cancer on June 23, 2009, and immediately reported the results to her employer, Edward D. Jones and Company, and her supervisor, Matthew Johnson.

Prior to her breast cancer, Novak had been given good recommendations for nine years. During her annual reviews, Novak's supervisors constantly told her that she met expectations, the suit states.

However, following Novak's diagnosis, Edward D. Jones and Company employees began treating her differently.

"Defendant Johnson began speaking to Plaintiff sarcastically, in a loud and threatening manner, and writing up Plaintiff for minor infractions knowing it would cause her severe emotional distress and ultimately her termination," the complaint says.

Two days after Novak was told she had breast cancer, she learned her aunt had passed away. Novak claims she was very close to her aunt and requested time off work, but was only given one bereavement day and one vacation day. However, instead of entering one bereavement day and one vacation day on her time sheet, Novak mistakenly wrote one bereavement day and one working day, according to the complaint.

After returning to work, Novak was notified that she was being written up for stealing from the company. Because of her mistake on her time sheet, she was given a final written warning, the suit states.

Novak began experiencing medical issues with the breast cancer, such as serious drainage and redness at the site of a previous staph infection, the complaint says. When Novak requested time off to go to the doctor, she claims Johnson responded, "Oh, goody, we get to go to the wound doctor again."

In addition, Johnson would see burns on Novak's hands and arms that were caused from her chemotherapy and would say, "What is wrong with you now? Oh, that is gross!," according to the complaint. He also told Novak her vomiting, caused by the chemotherapy, was disgusting, the suit states.

In addition, Novak's supervisors began reprimanding her for leaving 15 minutes early every day to stop by the post office, the complaint says. Novak claims she had been leaving early since she began working at the Glen Carbon Edward D. Jones branch in 2003, but suddenly was told that supervisors were monitoring the time she clocked out of the computer every day.

Because she did not want to get into trouble, Novak decided to wait until 5 p.m. to run by the post office, according to the complaint. However, she now reported the extra 15 minutes it took her as overtime, the suit states.

"This time, Defendant Johnson was giving Plaintiff a final warning for failure to obtain permission for the overtime she had recorded," the complaint says. "Defendant Johnson also stated that it only takes 10 minutes to go to the post office and Plaintiff recorded 15 minutes for the trip."

On Jan. 6, 2010, Novak again was called to the office, where multiple managers accused her of minor paperwork infractions. During the meeting, she was told she was being fired for the mistakes, according to the complaint.

"The three mistakes consisted of sending paperwork to the wrong place and minor mistakes within the paperwork," the suit states. "The three mistakes did not cause harm to Edwards Jones' clients, Defendant Edward Jones or Defendant Johnson."

Novak blames Johnson for intentional infliction of emotional distress and claims Edward Jones violated the Illinois Human Rights Act.

In her two-count complaint, Novak is seeking a judgment of more than $100,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just.

Anne M. Hillyer of St. Louis and Deborah S. Greider of St. Louis will be representing her.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 11-L-802.

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