UPS Worker Says She Was Fired Over COVID-19 Quarantine

By Lauren Berg
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Law360 (September 23, 2020, 10:17 PM EDT) -- A former UPS Inc. employee said she was illegally fired for taking two weeks off in order to quarantine after she fell sick during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in California state court.

Susan Ramirez said she fell ill and was required by her doctor to quarantine for 14 days due to the pandemic but that UPS, her employer at the time, discriminated against her on the basis of medical leave by illegally firing her, according to the 12-page complaint filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

Ramirez also claims UPS failed to provide her with legally-required meal breaks and failed to pay her premiums for missed breaks, according to the suit. Nor did UPS pay her for all overtime hours and wages due at the time of her termination, Ramirez said.

Ramirez said she filed a charge with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and received a notice of right to sue on Sept. 18.

The suit includes claims of discrimination and failure to prevent discrimination, failure to provide reasonable accommodation, retaliation and failure to prevent retaliation in violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, as well as wrongful termination, failure to pay timely earned wages upon separation, failure to pay meal and rest period compensation and failure to pay overtime, among other things.

Ramirez seeks payment of earned and withheld wages, compensatory and punitive damages and attorney fees.

There has been a slew of coronavirus-related workplace lawsuits and the spike is likely only beginning, according to a new report from Littler Mendelson PC. One of the report's central findings is that the pandemic has already resulted in a significant amount of litigation against businesses, with many early cases revolving around COVID-19 exposure, workplace health and safety, and terminations.

But in the coming weeks and months, the safety and wrongful termination lawsuits that have made up the bulk of coronavirus-related litigation thus far may give way to wage, discrimination and other claims, experts say.

Earlier this month, workers in Georgia and Michigan filed unrelated lawsuits claiming their employers, a carpet company and a noodle bar, terminated them after they took time off from work to quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19.

And in August, a former worker at a Pittsburgh-area nursing home claimed he was fired for voicing concerns about his facility's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic to an outside consultant, while a former associate general counsel at Onni Group said he was fired after requesting to continue working from home during the pandemic because of his wife's disability.

A San Diego woman in July claimed she was fired from her job with an insurance company because she was trying to juggle care for her two young children while she worked from home.

Representatives for the parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Ramirez is represented by Lawrence W. Freiman of Freiman Legal.

Counsel information for UPS was not immediately available.

The suit is Ramirez v. United Parcel Service Inc., case number 20STCV36049, in California Superior Court, County of Los Angeles.

--Additional reporting by Vin Gurrieri, Braden Campbell, Max Kutner, Matthew Santoni and Michele Gorman. Editing by Jay Jackson Jr.

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