BENTON – A respiratory therapist has lost her employment lawsuit against St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese with the court finding that attendance problems were the cause of her termination, not discrimination.

The case was filed in United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, as Holly Mollett v. St. Joseph’s Hospital Breese, of the hospital sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, doing business as HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Breese, and Hospital Sisters Health Systems.

Between March 2011 and December 2015, Holly Mollet worked as a certified respiratory therapist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Breese. In 2015, Mollet took time off according to the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

In March 2016, Mollet filed suit against the hospital alleging that she was discriminated against for filing unemployment benefits claims in 2014 and 2015 and for taking FMLA leave. 

In March, a motion for summary judgment by defendants was filed. In it, the defendants maintained that Mollet had unscheduled absences in 2012, and declined additional work hours offered to her between fall 2012 and January 2014 when she filed for unemployment. Mollet was granted unemployment. Mollet continued to have unscheduled absences in 2014 and was placed on suspension in December 2014.

In June 2015, Mollet was granted FMLA leave to recuperate from pneumonia. Another FMLA leave of absence was not approved by Unum, but Mollet took leave anyway and didn’t return to work until Aug. 4. She was terminated in December 2015. 

Mollet’s claim against her employers also claimed an alleged animus against her by her supervisor Robert Otrembiak because she had taken FMLA leave and because she had been granted unemployment benefits. No causal connection was found by the court, however.

In the memorandum and order by Chief Judge Michael J. Reagan, he notes: “Beyond what she considers suspicious timing, Mollet provides no convincing evidence that her discipline was retaliatory or that the alleged retaliatory nature of the corrective action is tied in any way to her December 2015 termination, other than somehow demonstrating Otrembiak’s animus towards her.” However, he notes, “Mollet had well-documented problems with attendance.”

The court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment June 27.

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