Employee Claims Pharmaceutical Product Development Discriminated Against Her After Medical Leave

Deborah Thompson filed a lawsuit against her employer, Pharmaceutical Product Development, LLC (PPD) on Monday Eastern District of North Carolina claiming that it breached employment laws. 

In addition to interference and retaliation against her under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), she alleged the defendant engaged in disability discrimination and retaliation which constitutes a violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thompson demanded a jury trial in addition to various damages for the perceived misconduct.

This suit follows Thompson’s filing of a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission responded explaining that Thompson was well within her rights to sue PPD over the claims of disability discrimination, age discrimination, and retaliation.

PPD is a “clinical research organization which provides drug development services in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.” According to the complaint, Thompson has been a valued employee for over 20 years, and was eventually promoted to Senior Manager of Procurement in July 2019. Shortly thereafter, in January 2020, Thompson was informed that the position was being eliminated and chose to assume her previous position, Senior Manager of Operations instead of taking a severance package.

On May 18, 2020, Thompson had surgery to address carpal tunnel syndrome, Dupuytren’s Contracture, and trigger finger, all of which are serious health conditions that “substantially limit Ms. Thompson’s major life activities, including but not limited to the use and operation of her hands, typing, and writing,” the complaint said. Thompson was out of work for 7 weeks, and was reportedly granted a protected leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

This absence allegedly prompted a negative mid-year performance review from Thompson’s manager. He detailed that she was “a poor performer” due to excessive absences during a time period that included her surgery and FMLA leave. Thompson reported the retaliatory review to human resources and kept in contact with them about the issues throughout the remainder of her FMLA leave.

Following this review, PPD created an Associate Director position and gave the position to an employee who Thompson had trained. They failed to even post an application for the job, inherently eliminating all competition and departing from previously established application and hiring processes. Thompson claimed that if she had the ability to apply, she would have received the promotion. 

Thompson again exercised her right to FMLA leave for a follow up surgery in October 2020, but was “repeatedly asked to work” and “performed work during the leave,” the complaint said. A performance review in December of 2020 by the new associate director, who Thompson had trained, and Thompson’s manager indicated that they expected more of her. They explained that she lacked regular engagement and was not “current” with her work. This inhibited her from receiving a bonus, which she claims was the first time in 23 years with PPD that she “did not receive either an annual raise or bonus.”

The plaintiff asserted that the aforementioned misconduct embodies violations of the FMLA and violations of age discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Thompson is seeking compensatory, liquidated, and punitive damages, lost wages, front pay, lost employment benefits, litigation costs, and a trial by jury as a result of PPD’s behavior towards her.

The plaintiff is represented by GessnerLaw PLLC.