Matt Russell Jul. 30, 2014, 1:38pm

A Houston woman is suing her former employer after the company fired her after health issues forced her to take a leave of absence.

Artis Ellis filed a lawsuit July 24 in Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas against Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. 

According to the complaint, Ellis had worked for Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates since 2005, and was promoted to center manager in 2008. On Aug. 29, 2012, Ellis began suffering from extreme stress, anxiety and headaches and ended up in the emergency room.

She returned to the emergency room Sept. 12, 2012 after suffering from the same symptoms and was told she had a brain tumor that needed immediate surgery. She went into surgery Sept. 14, 2012.

When she informed her employer of her disabilities and requested leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, she alleges the company began examining her conduct and performance at work, despite the fact that she had never had a negative performance evaluation prior to that, according to the claim.

Ellis returned to work Oct. 22, 2012, and says she informed her managers that her doctor told her she needed to avoid stressful situations and that she would only be working half-days for the first week back. She also says she requested reasonable accommodations for her eyesight, as she was required to wear an eye patch.

The suit states that when she came back to work, she was confronted by three of her superiors with a list of areas in which she had failed as a manager, including such minor issues as "It has been reported that management has discarded employee’s personal belonging[s] such as food, clothing, cups and dishes without proper notification.”

After the incident and fearing that more stress would cause her to fall ill again, Ellis asked to go on back on leave under FMLA.

According to the claim, she was told that it would be better if she took administrative leave instead.

On Nov. 1, 2012, Ellis was summoned into the meeting with her superiors and was informed she was being terminated for her failure to follow the company's procedures, and was told her staff would be told she was resigning due to her health.

In the suit, Ellis alleges that she was terminated because of her health, and that the company discriminated against her due to the disabilities caused by her health problems.

Ellis is seeking damages for past, present and future mental and physical suffering, punitive damages above the minimum jurisdictional limits of the court, plus costs.

She is being represented by Terrence B. Robinson and Brian J. Levy of Kennard Blankenship Robinson PC in Houston.

Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas case number 4:14-cv-02126

This is a report on a civil lawsuit filed in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas. The details in this report come from an original complaint filed by a plaintiff. Please note, a complaint represents an accusation by a private individual, not the government. It is not an indication of guilt, and it only represents one side of the story.

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