A woman claiming she lost her job after filing for workers’ compensation benefits is accusing her employer of spoliation of evidence, saying it wrongfully ensured that her urine sample tested positive for drugs.

According to the Jan. 14 lawsuit, Penny Lucas alleges she was injured when she fell at work on Dec. 27, 2012. Following the incident, she was told by her employer, defendant Atrium Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center of Cahokia, to go to the hospital. She was given a post-accident drug test on Dec. 28, 2012.

The drug test came back negative, but Lucas was required to submit to another drug test on Jan. 15, 2013, the suit states. The second test allegedly came back positive, but Lucas claims she insisted that the results had to be inaccurate. She requested that the hospital retest her urine, but it allegedly refused to do so.

Instead, Lucas went to Memorial Hospital in Belleville on Feb. 8, 2013, to voluntarily take another test at her own expense. The results of this test came back negative, the suit states.

Atrium Healthcare was immediately notified of the discrepancy, but the company fired Lucas on Jan. 15, and failed to begin an investigation following the subsequent blood test, the complaint alleges.

“In violation of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, Atrium discharged plaintiff for exercising her rights,” the suit states.

The defendant filed a motion to dismiss on Feb. 20, claiming the complaint is time barred because she filed her suit over a year after she received notice of her right to sue.

Atrium Healthcare also accuses her of failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Atrium Healthcare claims Lucas continued working without issue for over a year before her drug test came back positive and she was terminated. As a result, the defendant claims it is clear that Lucas was terminated over a positive drug test.

“Plaintiff’s complaint is fatally flawed in that the facts alleged do not support her contention she was discharged for exercising her rights under the Worker’s Compensation Act,” the motion states.

Lucas responded to the defendant’s motion to dismiss on April 13, arguing that the statute of limitations for a retaliatory discharge claim is five years, making the complaint timely.

She also claims she provided sufficient facts to support her allegations. She claims the defendants misunderstood. Instead, she alleges she had three drug tests, each within two weeks of each other.

“Plaintiff assumes defendant misread the complaint and is not attempting to mislead the court,” the response states.

Lucas added that the only positive drug test was performed by the defendant.

“Plaintiff had three drug tests in a little over a month and the two performed at independent hospitals were negative and the test defendant performed has allegedly been spoliated,” the response states.

Lucas seeks compensatory, punitive and exemplary damages, plus interest, costs and attorneys’ fees and other relief the court deems just in excess of $75,000.

Ryan M. Furniss of The Furnniss Law Firm in St. Louis represents Lucas.

Terese A. Drew of Hinshaw & Culbertson of St. Louis represents the defendant.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 15-L-17

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