Cancer victim sues employer after he loses job

Michelle Massey, East Texas Bureau Nov. 12, 2010, 4:10am

SHERMAN-A cancer victim alleges he was fired in violation of his civil rights and has filed a lawsuit against his former employer.

Claiming violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act and Americans with Disability Act, Thomas N. Jernigan filed suit against Campbell Soup Supply Co. on Oct. 21 in the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division. The defendant removed the case to the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division on Nov. 1.

Jernigan states he worked as a group leader supervising the second shift at the Campbell's Soup facility in Paris, Texas, from June 2000 until his termination in April.

According to the lawsuit, Jernigan was diagnosed with cancer in 2007and took leave to receive chemotherapy. In 2008, he underwent lung surgery. He also missed time in 2008 and in the summer of 2009 relating to a problem with sleep apnea.

Jernigan claims the defendant considered him disabled and personnel from the Human Resources Department suggested that he retire.

After he received the diagnosis of the sleep apnea condition, Jernigan states he made several requests to be placed on the day shift per his doctor's recommendation. His requests were denied. Three months after he returned from his leave, he was placed on a 90-day Performance Improvement Plan.

When the plan was completed in February, no immediate actions were taken. In April, Jernigan was terminated "due to rating of Inconsistently Meeting Standards over a three-year period."

Jernigan argues the reason for his termination was a pretext and that he was a victim of intentional age and racial discrimination.

The defendant is accused of Family and Medical Leave Act discrimination, age discrimination, disability discrimination and civil rights violations.

Jernigan is seeking damages for lost earnings and benefits, loss of future earning capacity, medical expenses, pecuniary losses, emotional pain and suffering, mental anguish, emotional distress, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, exemplary damages, attorneys' fees, interest and court costs.

The plaintiff is represented by John H. Crouch, IV of Kilgore & Kilgore in Dallas.

Jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Richard A. Schell is assigned to the case.

Case No. 4:10-cv-00591

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