Tyson Employee Claims She Was Fired For Taking Medical Leave

Tyson Prepared Foods, Inc (Tyson), is under suit by former employee Bianca Walker, over claims that the company wrongfully terminated her employment under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA). The plaintiff claimed that after missing part of her workday due to a pre-op appointment for a surgery, Tyson terminated her, despite the company having full awareness of the situation and having received full compliance from the plaintiff with Tyson’s notice policies and practices.

According to the filing, Walker suffers from scoliosis, a medical condition which affects the “normal functioning of her spine.” Under FMLA, scoliosis is classified as a serious health condition, the complaint said. Tyson’s facilities in Wisconsin, where the plaintiff worked, were classified as covered employers under the FMLA and were allegedly aware of Walker’s serious health condition classification. After her scoliosis caused her to have two medical appointments and periods of incapacity, she scheduled surgery to alleviate her back pain in March.

The plaintiff explained that Tyson contracted with a company called Unum to “provide FMLA leave-related administration and services,” for their employees. After scheduling her surgery, the plaintiff notified both Tyson and Unum in mid-March of the impending procedure and requested FMLA leave from Unum for the surgery and its subsequent recovery. Both required inpatient care in the hospital and would leave her unable to work for that period of time. In early April , the plaintiff contended that Unum “received a completed FMLA health care certification on behalf of Plaintiff regarding Plaintiff’s back surgery on May 7 and need attend pre-op medical appointments for same on an intermittent basis.”

Following the FMLA certification, the plaintiff describes that both Tyson and Unum were aware of the contingencies of her back surgery and its associated appointments. She asserts that she “properly complied with Defendant’s notice policies and practices,” including for a pre-op appointment on April 23. On May 5, Tyson terminated her employment due to the absence caused by the April 23 appointment. The plaintiff maintains that this appointment should have been FMLA-leave approved by both Tyson and Unum based on her serious health condition certification and her advanced notice.

Ultimately, Walker is alleging that Tyson deliberately interfered with her rights “by terminating Plaintiff’s employment for using, and/or in order to prevent her form using, protected leave, in violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993.” She is seeking a trial by jury and an order requiring Tyson to provide her “back pay, front pay, and/or reinstatement, liquidated damages, pre- and post-judgement interest, and reimbursement for other benefits and expenses.”The plaintiff is represented by Walcheske & Luzi.