Metals company pays New Jersey, former employee

Bryan Cohen May 11, 2011, 2:16am


TRENTON, N.J. (Legal Newsline) - New Jersey Attorney General Paula Dow announced a settlement on Wednesday between an Essex County metals company and a former employee who alleged retaliation over taking time off.

Under terms of the settlement, United Support Solutions of Cedar Grove, N.J., paid former company-employed welder Dorothy Williams $24,000 and paid the Division on Civil Rights for administrative costs in lieu of a statutory penalty.

Williams was hired as a welder by the company in February 2007 and was allegedly terminated on March 16, 2010, after taking "unscheduled" days off to care for her husband after she'd been reassigned to an evening work shift. Williams alleged that the reassignment was in retaliation for taking the days off.

In anticipation of her husband's surgery and subsequent convalescence, unaware of her rights under the Family Leave Act, Williams submitted a written request for time to be with her husband between March 15 and March 19, 2010, and later asked for March 10 off. The requests were approved. After her husband experienced post-surgical complications, Williams said she could not work on March 11 or 12 because she needed to be at the hospital.

Williams' supervisor allegedly advised Williams to contact the company office because he could not approve more than one day of unscheduled absence. Williams did not follow up because she believed her discussion with her supervisor had served as adequate notice.

United Support Solutions allegedly reassigned Williams to the company's second work shift between 3 p.m. and 11 p.m. instead of her prior day shift of 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. A company management executive allegedly contacted Williams by phone on March 15 to advise her of the reassignment, which Williams allegedly rejected. She was terminated the following day.

The Division on Civil Rights found that United Support Solutions failed to meet its obligation to Williams under the Family Leave Act and that when Williams submitted her written request for "vacation," the company had a duty to explain to her she was allowed to take family leave time instead.

The division also found that Williams' phone call to her supervisor was "reasonable oral notification of an emergent situation" under the law. The division found that the decision to reassign Williams to a later shift, which led to her ultimate termination, was retaliatory.

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