Colorado Company Fires Manager After Suffering Life-Threatening Stroke and Being At-Risk of Contracting COVID-19
Ball Metalpack Director Fired After Applying for Short-term Disability and Family Medical Leave Act
On March 18, 2020, Tanique Wright, Director of Talent Management for Broomfield, Colorado company Ball Metalpack was rushed to the emergency room after experiencing a stroke on the left side of her brain which negatively impacted her ability to move the right half of her body. Wright experienced slurred speech, headache, confusion and struggles with writing. On March 19, 2020 at 8:08AM, Wright notified her boss, Janice "Jan" Rodriguez (VP of Human Resources and Senior Legal Counsel for Ball Metalpack) about her stroke and was told by Ms. Rodriguez not to worry about anything except getting well.
Grateful for what appeared to be compassion from Ms. Rodriguez, Tanique Wright continued her hospitalization through March 20th and then returned home to start her recovery. On March 26th at 2:48PM, Rodriguez contacted Tanique and asked if she could participate in a short phone call on March 27th. Also, on March 26th at 6:30PM, the doctor contacted Tanique and asked her to return to the hospital to receive a blood transfusion. During both hospital visits, the doctor told Tanique she was at a high risk of contracting the Coronavirus. After her last visit, Tanique received another call from a hospital nurse who also told her that she was really a high risk of getting COVID-19.
When Tanique dialed in for the scheduled March 27th call with Ms. Rodriguez, she was told that her peer, Colleen Callies, (Director of HR Operations) would be joining the call. While waiting for Ms. Callies to come online, there was an awkward silence from Ms. Rodriguez who didn't have the human decency to ask Tanique how she was feeling after her stroke and potential risk of contracting COVID-19. When Ms. Callies joined the call, Ms. Rodriguez coldly told Tanique that she was sorry, but she was being terminated and that Ms. Callies would handle the termination process. The cold-hearted Rodriguez quickly hung up the phone without hearing a word from Ms. Wright.
Devastated, Wright told Ms. Callies that they were cruel and cared nothing about her illness. The callous Ms. Callies responded that firing her was already in the works. As a high-level manager in the Ball Metalpack's HR department, Tanique Wright knew that Ms. Callies claim was not true because she had witnessed Ball Metalpack's cruel practice of firing employees when they apply for short-term disability benefits of which she was the latest victim. Ms. Wright had already applied for short-term disability and while on medical leave had also applied for benefits under the Family Medical Leave Act (FLMA)--a law passed to protect employees from retaliatory firings for being sick after being employed for 1 year. Ms. Wright technically did not qualify because they chose to terminate her 4 days prior to the 1-year mark. "It appears that Ball Metalpack may be firing employees in retaliation for getting sick to avoid paying costs required under medical insurance they provide to their employees," says Lamont Banks, Executive Director of A Just Cause.
Ms. Wright, who has a stellar record of accomplishment with Ball Metalpack, is evaluating her legal options as she rests and recovers from her stroke at home and grapples with the reality of losing her company-supplied medical insurance.