On August 16, 2017, Denise Abinante was awarded $420,000 by a Yuba county jury. This was a textbook disability discrimination and wrongful termination case. Ms. Abinante was known for her excellent work performance since 1996, when she started working for the defendant Fremon-Rideout Health Group. Ms. Abinante was promoted several times, and her most recent position was Central Supply Supervisor. On September 15, 2014, she suffered a workplace injury to her neck. She immediately reported it to her supervisor and shortly after reported to the emergency room. Plaintiff was in fact diagnosed with a serious injury to her lumbar. A few days later plaintiff returned to work with restrictions limiting her ability to push, pull, and lift more than 5 lbs. As of April 2015, she was to be released to full duty without restrictions. In May 2015, Abinante took a a leave of absence for stressed induced illness. At that time, her workers comp claim in connection with her neck injury was also pending.
In August 2015, upon returning from her stress leave, Abinante contacted the employer to arrange a meeting to discuss her return to work and accommodations needed. The employer concluded that they could not accommodate Abinante’s restrictions, even though she performed her job well for seven months prior to stress leave and when she had greater restrictions, and terminated her employment.
Likely Reason For Discrimination
Although this is my speculation, I can imagine that Abinante’s management started assuming that she started enjoying her her time off too much, and her reasons for being on leave were less than legitimate. Making this type of assumption about a long-time employee who had the reputation of a good hard worker for many years, can be expensive for the employer, as it turned out in this case.