Schneider's firing was retaliatory, man claims

By Annie Cosby | Dec 18, 2014

A Collin County man is suing over claims he was fired in retaliation for a workers' compensation claim.

Carlos H. Nieto filed a lawsuit Oct. 24 in the Sherman Division of the Eastern District of Texas against Schneider National Carriers Inc., citing discrimination.

According to the complaint, Nieto was employed by the defendant on Feb. 1, 2013, when he sustained injuries to his neck while a passenger in a company van and not at fault. Neito says the injury could have required surgery. He filed a workers' compensation claim, the suit states, and his physician took him off work.

The complaint states Nieto received a letter from the defendant May 31, 2013, stating that unless he called his manager, Melcom Johnson, he would be considered to have voluntarily resigned, so Nieto called Johnson on June 4, 2013, and reminded him the company was aware of his medical leave.

Nieto says June 15, 2013, was the first time he was informed that he needed to apply for FMLA leave, so he did so and was approved for leave from July 12-Oct. 3, 2013. According to the lawsuit, Nieto learned in August 2013 that he would be released to return to work in September 2013, but when he notified Schneider National, he was told the company needed to process additional paperwork and Nieto was not permitted to return to work.

Nieto says that in September or October 2013, he received a letter stating the bulk sand division of Schneider was closing and employees could apply for a transfer, so he called his manager, Christ Amaro, who told him to contact Mike Phelp. The lawsuit states Phelp told him to contact the Schneider recruiting department, which told him he was ineligible for a transfer because of something on his record, which his manager could discuss further.

Nieto says he again contacted Amaro, who said Nieto had a safety violation on his record and to talk to Phelp about it, but when he called Phelp, Phelp said the problem was that Nieto had been “MIA,” when it turned out that Phelp had been calling the wrong phone number to reach Nieto. Nieto says that because of the confusion, he called Amaro for clarification, and was told to contact the safety department, which then told Nieto he couldn't transfer because he had been terminated Sept. 30, 2013, and was ineligible for rehire because of a safety violation on his record from the Feb. 1, 2013 van accident.

Nieto says this stated reason was a pretext for discrimination because of his disability and filing a workers' compensation claim. The complaint states Nieto was not the driver of the van and, therefore, committed no safety violations in the accident. Furthermore, according to the lawsuit, there were other passengers in the van at the time who were not hurt and who remained employed by the defendant company. The defendant is accused of violating the Family and Medical Leave Act, discrimination under the Americans with Disability Act, and violating the Texas Labor Code.

Nieto seeks exemplary, compensatory and liquidated damages, including back pay, front pay, lost benefits, interest, attorney fees and reinstatement.

He is represented by attorney Laura E. Calhoun of Plano.

Sherman Division of the Eastern District of Texas case number: 4:14-CV-00680

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