Man Claims Kaiser Fired Him for Taking FMLA Leave
8-26-2014 23:44:00

WASHINGTON (CN) - Kaiser supervisors fired a man because he took time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for his lymphedema, he claims in a federal lawsuit.

Chikez Onyewu worked for Kaiser as a pharmacy technician beginning in 1995, but was eventually fired in 2012 for taking too much time off to care for a disease that seriously affects his legs and ankles.

Onyewu was originally diagnosed with chronic venous insufficiency, which causes swelling and pain, but was later diagnosed with lymphedema. Lymphedema also causes swelling and pain, but is caused by a blockage in the lymphatic system, according to The Mayo Clinic website.

After being diagnosed in 2007, Onyewu notified his supervisors that constant standing and walking complicated his symptoms and that he would need to take more breaks to rest and elevate his legs. Supervisor Cindy Adams told him he would have to make due without the extra breaks. As a result, he was forced to notify Adams in advance of his need to take regular FMLA leave to give his legs a chance to recover from working on his feet.

In 2009 he came under the supervision of Creighton Morehead and Steven Adamczyk who told him he was misusing his FMLA leave and ordered him to have his condition re-evaluated even though he had just done so three months prior. Morehead and Adamczyk informed him that he was no longer allowed to take advanced notice FMLA leave.

Onyewu says that in 2012 the two supervisors began falsely coding his days off.

Onyewu complained to human resources that Mr. Adamczyk was miscoding his leave, according to the complaint. “Specifically, plaintiff reported that he was being charged with sick leave and banked sick leave at the same time and that Mr. Adamczyk had coded plaintiff’s FMLA leave as vacation time. These mistakes were later corrected.”

He says he was also falsely accused of using FMLA leave for personal time, to attend a union meeting, and of “stealing pediatric fleet enemas by giving the enemas to a customer without charging her,” according to the complaint.

Morehead and Adamczyk refused to reveal the unnamed witness or show Onyewu the alleged surveillance footage that recorded the event, according to the complaint. He was ultimately fired based on the two claims, which Onyewu says were used as a pretext for his firing.

He is suing for retaliation and wrongful termination under the FMLA. He seeks more than $100,000 in damages, lost wages and benefits, and wants to be reinstated.

The plaintiff is represented by Alan Lescht and Rani Rolston of Alan Lescht & Associates, in Washington.