Woman Says 5K Run Used As Pretext for Firing

     PITTSBURGH (CN) – A charity race proved costly for a woman who claims in court she lost her job over a Facebook post about a 5k run she competed in while on disability.
     Amanda Lish sued Pittsburgh accounting firm Sisterson & Co. in federal court Tuesday, alleging her former employer violated her rights in dismissing her for participating in the breast cancer charity run while she was out of work on medical leave for her chronic migraines.
     Lish says she’d struggled with migraines throughout her 11-year career as a tax administrative assistant for Sisterson, but her condition worsened in early 2015 and she was awarded full disability benefits while adjusting to a new course of medication.
     It was during that adjustment period that she was fired, with her employer allegedly taking exception to her participation in athletic activities while she was out on medical leave.
     They learned of the run from an anonymous source who submitted a copy of her Facebook post, the August 2 complaint says.
     Lish was informed in writing by her bosses that she was being let go for “intentionally abusing [her] medical leave, malingering and purposefully avoiding [her] employment responsibilities without sufficient justification,” she claims in the lawsuit.
     Her termination letter even provided a statement from a doctor to whom her employer had sent her for a second opinion, which stated that Lish’s “athletic activity [was] inconsistent with [her] claimed inability to work.”
     But Lish cries foul over these accusations in her complaint, claiming it was her doctor who recommended that she get 30 minutes of daily exercise to help with her condition.
     Her neurologist co-signed this advice, she says, telling her that participating in the 5k Fun Run would not compromise her health or aggravate her migraines.
     Lish contends the real reason she was fired was retaliation for taking medical leave in the first place, and her participation in the run was just used as a pretext for dismissing her.
     Brass at Sisterson had given her a hard time about her medical leave from the beginning, she says, having revoked her full disability benefits just a month after granting them, but telling her she could go on Family Medical Leave instead.
     Even after granting her the new leave, she claims they immediately violated its terms by sending her to a doctor of their own choosing for a second opinion, which is allegedly verboten under the Family Medical Leave Act.
     Her employers “both denied [her] the protections of the FMLA and interfered with her rights under the FMLA,” the lawsuit claims.
     Because Lish was cleared to run by her doctor, her participation in the charity race was considered protected activity under the terms of the law.
     Lish is seeking unspecified punitive damages against Sisterson & Co. and its director Richard Custer for alleged retaliation, discrimination and denial of reasonable accommodations in light of her disability.
     Their actions violate not only the FMLA but also the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, she claims.
     The complaint also seeks an order reinstating her to her former position.
     Dr. Robert Kaniecki, the physician to whom Sisterson sent Lish for a second opinion on her condition, is also named as a defendant in the suit.
     His representatives could not immediately be reached for comment, nor did Sisterson return a Thursday afternoon phone call seeking comment.
     Lish is represented by Gregory Paul of Pittsburgh firm Morgan and Paul.

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