Feds sue Fairfield company for wrongful termination of employee

An employee asked for temporary unpaid leave to care for her sick niece and the company denied the request, then fired the employee when she did not return to work for more than a week, according to a description of the case provided by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The labor department says the company unlawfully denied the leave request under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The government agency filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati on Nov. 27.

Officials with DNA Diagnostics, located at One DDC Way in Fairfield, did not return Tuesday phone calls from Journal-News.

Eligible employees are entitled to take up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for specified family and medical reasons. Under the FMLA, a son or daughter includes a biological or adopted child, but also a foster child, a stepchild, a legal ward or a child of a person standing in place of a parent, according to the labor department.

In April this year, Danielle Perdue of Fairfield requested leave from work to care for her niece’s asthma and obstructive sleep apnea, according to the complaint filed. Beginning that month, Perdue had day-to-day responsibilities to care for and financially support her niece, a minor, the complaint filed by the government reads.

The same month, Perdue provided her employer, DNA Diagnostics, with a completed copy of a form certifying her as the family member’s health provider, and a copy of a guardianship agreement, appointing her the legal guardian of her niece, according to the government’s description of the event.

However, as the government’s complaint reads, the company’s human resources director denied Perdue leave “because she did not have legal guardianship of her niece ‘through the courts.’”

A termination letter sent by the company to Perdue on or about April 29 stated in part: “You have been absent from work since April 17, 2013. Because your absence has not been approved and we have not heard from you since April 18, 2013, we have determined that you abandoned your position,” according to the government’s complaint.

“Our investigation found that DNA Diagnostics Center denied this worker her right to unpaid, job-protected leave under FMLA and then fired her for attempting to exercise that right,” said George Victory, wage and hour district director of the labor department’s Columbus office, in a statement.

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