CINCINNATI (CN) - A former bank manager who was fired for taking a bribe says in court that J.P. Morgan Chase must have had an ulterior motive since the bribe in question was worth a whopping 11 cents.
Jonathan Rotonda's termination on Sept. 5, 2013, occurred within weeks of his return to work at a Chase branch in Blue Ash, Ohio, after a four-week leave of absence, according to the federal complaint filed Monday.
Rotonda allegedly took leave under the Family Medical Leave Act after he was diagnosed in June with an anxiety disorder that caused frequent panic attacks.
Upon his return to work in August, Rotonda's supervisor "repeatedly commented that he did not seem 'peppy' enough," the complaint states.
Rotonda says the "change in demeanor was a side effect of the medication he was prescribed to treat his disability."
Chase allegedly got the excuse it needed to fire Rotonda when a new customer brought in Ghanaian currency, purportedly found in a rental property, to exchange.
Research soon proved, however, that "the Ghanaian currency in question was no longer in circulation, and that the bill in question had a value of approximately $0.11 as a collector's item," according to the complaint.
Rotonda says the new customer joked "that he 'couldn't leave him empty-handed' and shoved the currency into Mr. Rotonda's hand."
"Mr. Rotonda attempted to return the Ghanaian currency to the new customer but the new customer insisted he keep it and left the branch," the complaint states.
Just 15 minutes later, Rotonda was allegedly called into his supervisor's officer and told "that accepting the Ghanaian currency from the new customer was a 'huge' violation of company policy equivalent to accepting a bribe."
Rotonda says he was fired two days later "allegedly for taking money from a customer as a gift."
Rotonda says the bank's real motive in firing him was his disability and his use of FMLA leave.
He says "similarly situated bankers were not disciplined or terminated for accepting gifts from customers, including gift certificates, with a value far in excess of the defunct currency a customer insistently gave [him]."
Rotonda seeks punitive damages for ADA violations, disability discrimination and FMLA interference.
He is represented by Brian Butler of the Robert A. Klingler Co.