Strange Day no Reason for Firing, Woman Says

     CLEVELAND (CN) – A manager who stole a co-worker’s wallet and bought baby clothes with a credit card in it claims in court that it happened during a dissociative episode brought on by acute stress disorder, and Case Western Reserve University had no right to fire her for it.
     Anna Yakubenko sued Case Western Reserve University for disability discrimination and wrongful termination in Cuyahoga County Court.
     Yakubenko had been a manager in the molecular biology department for 3½ years when the incident happened, she says in the complaint.
     She claims she suffered from acute stress disorder throughout her employment at the university, but that her dissociative episodes are rare.
     “Yakubenko first experienced a dissociative episode when her father died of a heart attack right in front of her when she was 19,” the lawsuit states.
     “These types of acute stress disorder episodes were extremely rare for Yakubenko and only occurred when those types of life-altering events occurred in her life.”
     Yakubenko says a similar event triggered the episode at issue here.
     “A day or two prior to March 15, 2013, Yakubenko received a call from her family in Ukraine who reported to her that her cousin, who she was very close to, died of a heart attack at the age of 48, virtually the exact same way her father died at the age of 46,” the complaint states.
     “The loss of her cousin brought back all Yakubenko’s memories and emotions regarding the loss of her father, and as such, her acute stress disorder triggered an extreme dissociative episode.
     “On or around March 15, 2013, as Yakubenko was experiencing the ill effects of her disorder, she walked into the break room at her department, and found the wallet that belonged to her co-worker Sara.
     “Yakubenko took the wallet in order to find Sara and give it to her.
     “Yakubenko did not intentionally take Sara’s wallet in order to keep it for herself.
     “Yakubenko did not intentionally take Sara’s wallet in order to permanently deprive Sara’s ownership of the wallet.
     “After removing the wallet from the break room, Yakubenko allegedly used a credit card in the wallet to purchase some babies [sic] clothing at a TJ Maxx.
     “Yakubenko has no small children or babies of her own.
     “At the time Yakubenko allegedly committed this action, she was completely unaware that it was taking place due to the effects of her acute stress disorder episode.
     “Yakubenko never realized she made any of these purchases until she got home, opened her trunk and saw the clothes inside of it.”
     Yakubenko claims she called the police herself, returned the wallet to Sara and reimbursed her, but Case Western suspend her without pay shortly thereafter.
     While on suspension, Yakubenko says, she wrote a letter to Case Western Reserve, in which she “shared her most personal life details with Case regarding her disability in order to explain the genesis of her disorder and specifically, how it can be triggered.”
     But despite letters from two physicians who described how such an incident could be caused by acute stress disorder, and requesting FMLA leave, Case Western fired her before the deadline to turn in the paperwork for her medical leave, Yakubenko says.
     She claims that “instead of giving Yakubenko any opportunity to supplement her evidence that the March 15, 2013 incident was a direct result of her disability and confirm that a short medical leave would sufficiently accommodate her disability, Case, instead had already made the decision to terminate her.”
     Yakubenko wants her job back, lost wages, and compensatory and punitive damages for wrongful firing, disability discrimination, FMLA violations, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
     She is represented by Brian Spitz, of South Euclid, Ohio.

%d bloggers like this: