Webster’s defines compassion as:
In yet another instance of corporate callousness, Claudia Rendon, a 41-year old mother from Philadelphia, was fired from her job at Aviation Institute of Maintenance after taking leave to donate a kidney to her son, Alex. Kidney transplant surgery normally takes six to eight weeks recovery time. Rendon had discussed taking unpaid leave from July 19 to undergo the kidney transplant surgery on July 21 at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and to return to her job on September 1. She told ABC News that on her last day of work, her manager presented her with a letter to sign acknowledging that her job was not secure one hour after telling her that she would have her job upon her return. On August 24, Rendon informed Aviation Institute of Maintenance that she might not be able to return to work September 1 due to severe lower back pain; a common complication of such surgery. Aviation Institute of Maintenance said they wanted a letter from the doctor. The University of Pennsylvania hospital and her short-term disability provider each wrote letters to Rendon’s employer stating she would return to work Sept. 12. Upon making a social visit to Aviation Institute of Maintenance on September 8, she found out her position had been filled by someone else on September 6. Alex, who was a student at AIM, has also suffered repercussions of undergoing this lifesaving transplant. The school is trying to collect $2,000 related to time he took off in addition to trying to charge him $150 to re-enroll. Did Aviation Institute of Maintenance break the law? Or are they just another example of a callous employer lacking in compassion?
The Federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which would require the employer to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, does not apply because Aviation Institute of Maintenance has less than 50 employees. Perhaps the Federal Americans With Disabilities Act or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act applies and may yet provide remedy. The ADA would require her employer to provide “reasonable accommodation” to the temporary disability caused by the surgery. In this instance, it is quite reasonable to assert that the employers action should have been to hire a temp through a service to cover the 12 day gap. The PHRA applies to all public and private employers in Pennsylvania with four or more employees and, although the language is not as clear as the ADA, does provides similar anti-discrimination protection in employment practices. This is a matter for the courts to decide as their actions relate to both the ADA and the PHRA. The answer the question of whether the Aviation Institute of Maintenance break the law is “maybe”. Any remedy may be mitigated by the fact that since receiving so much bad publicity over this matter, AIM has put Rendon back on salary pending a new opening. This does not mean she has her job back or will remain on payroll.
However, as to the question of whether or not AIM has acted in a callous manner lacking of any modicum of compassion, I think that is without question. They first agreed to hold her position then at the last minute and in an abundance of unfair bargaining position forced her to sign a letter releasing them from liability if they didn’t hold her position. They failed to make a reasonable accommodation for her (and her son’s) recovery. They attempted to compound the damage done by replacing Rendon by trying to collect money and fees from Alex during his recovery.
Aside from any remedy the courts can apply, do you think it is enough? Should we as a society encourage consumers to not do business with companies that treat their employees badly? Even if their bad actions as in the case of Cecelia Ingraham are not per se illegal? What do you think?
~Submitted by Gene Howington, Guest Blogger