Worker claims employer spread false rumors over termination

Kelly Holleran Sep. 11, 2012, 3:00am

A man claims he lost his job after he filed for health insurance benefits for his ill wife. The man also alleges he then was not able to find another job after his former employer began spreading false rumors about the reason for his termination.

Kevin O'Leary alleges he was working at Heidtman Steel Products in 2010 when he was forced to request leave under the Family Medical Leave Act due to his need to care for his wife. O'Leary planned to use the health insurance benefits offered to him through his employer to pay for his wife's benefits, according to the complaint filed Sept. 4 in Madison County Circuit Court.

Just before his termination, O'Leary also injured his ribs, the suit states. He applied for workers' compensation benefits, the complaint says.

On Nov. 10, 2010, Heidtman Steel fired O'Leary, according to the complaint.

O'Leary claims his discharge was partially related to the fact that he had reported work place violence, had turned in co-workers who were tampering with other workers' food and had reported co-employees defecating on the premises.

Following his termination, O'Leary attempted to apply for numerous jobs at other companies. However, he could not secure work because Heidtman told the potential employers that O'Leary lost his job after failing to show up for work, the suit states. O'Leary says Heidtman's allegations against him were false, the complaint says.

Because of his job loss, O'Leary suffered severe emotional trauma, lost wages, endured mental anguish and experienced pain and suffering, the suit states. He lost also lost his enjoyment of life, the complaint says.

In addition to Heidtman Steel Products, O'Leary names his former supervisor Mark Hessler as a defendant, alleging Hessler sexually harassed other employees at the company. Bothered by Hessler's alleged actions, O'Leary asked to be transferred to a different department, according to the complaint.

Hessler had terminated O'Leary in retaliation for his complaints, the suit states.

"Hessler acted maliciously with personal animosity against Kevin O'Leary and Hessler acted for his own personal interest contrary to those of Heidtman Steel when he terminated Kevin O'Leary," the complaint says.

In his six-count complaint, O'Leary is seeking a judgment of more than $300,000, plus costs.

Michael J. Brunton and Mary M. Stewart of Brunton Law Offices in Collinsville will be representing him.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 12-L-1412.

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