Law360 (September 28, 2020, 6:41 PM EDT) -- A former glass installation company employee filed a lawsuit in Florida federal court on Saturday claiming he was fired after taking time off from work with potential COVID-19 symptoms that turned out to be a result of pneumonia.
Hector Hernandez, described in the complaint as an "outstanding" employee at United Glass Systems Corp., said that in April he was required to sign a release stating that if he contracted the virus he would not hold the company liable.
After leaving work on July 2 with potential COVID-19 symptoms that turned out to be due to pneumonia, Hernandez returned to work on July 19 and was promptly fired, according to the lawsuit.
"As a result of this exercise of the benefits afforded under the [Family and Medical Leave Act] as temporarily modified by the [Families First Coronavirus Response Act], the defendant intentionally, willfully and unlawfully retaliated against the plaintiff by terminating his employment," Hernandez said in the suit.
The complaint did not provide details on the nature or length of Hernandez's employment at United Glass Systems, which according to its website specializes in commercial window installation for high-rise buildings. The company's corporate office is in Coral Springs, Florida, and it also has offices in New York City, Turkey and the Dominican Republic.
According to the complaint, Hernandez left work on July 2 with COVID-19 symptoms and informed United Glass Systems on July 6 that he was taking a coronavirus test, which ultimately turned out to be negative.
"However, during the test, an X-ray was performed on plaintiff's chest wherein he had pneumonia on his lungs," Hernandez said. "Given this high risk, plaintiff's doctor informed plaintiff he should not return to work for the time being until July 15, 2020."
Hernandez said he texted the company about returning to work, and when he did return on July 19, he was terminated.
The complaint includes causes of action for Families First Coronavirus Response Act interference and retaliation.
"At all times material to this lawsuit, the plaintiff was entitled to benefits afforded under the FMLA as temporarily modified by the FFCRA," Hernandez said. "The defendant unlawfully interfered with the plaintiff's exercise of his FFCRA rights by denying him benefits that he was afforded."
United Glass Systems and counsel for Hernandez did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Hernandez is represented by Chad E. Levy and David M. Cozad.
Counsel information for United Glass Systems could not immediately be determined.
The case is Hernandez v. United Glass Systems Corp., case number 0:20-cv-61961, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.
--Editing by Daniel King.
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