The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

August 26, 2013

Former employee charges hospital with retaliation

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

SHARON — A phlebotomist has filed a federal discrimination suit alleging  Sharon Regional Health System retaliated against him for filing a workers’ compensation claim and then fired him because he has a disability.

SRHS has denied the allegations, saying Tom Yeager is not disabled and was not qualified for the position.

Yeager, 45, of 428 Patton Ave., Farrell, filed suit Aug. 14 in U.S. District Court, Pittsburgh, alleging violations of the American with Disabilities Act.

He said he was hired in October 2009 and suffered a shoulder-related injury that required surgery in 2011.

The injury was “allegedly sustained at work,” SRHS said, and he claims it is permanent.

Yeager filed a workers’ compensation claim and returned to work in December 2011. Back at work, he was treated with “hostility and indifference” to his injury and his need for work changes in order to perform his duties, he said.

SRHS “fabricated a patient complaint” in August 2012 and suspended him, firing him on Sept. 4, he said.

In its answer to the suit filed Friday, SRHS said Yeager was fired “following a complaint by a patient and a patient’s family member specifically concerning (Yeager.)’”

The nature of the complaint was not revealed by either side.

Yeager said he can perform the essential functions of the job as long as he is provided “reasonable accommodation,” including time off for medical care visits and lifting limitations.

Although denying that Yeager is disabled under the definition in the Americans with Disabilities Act, SRHS said it “provided reasonable accomodations including change of work assignment, limited duty and transportation to and from work.”

At the time of his firing, Yeager “had fully recovered from his injury and was able to perform all of the essential functions of his positions without accommodations,” SRHS said.

Yeager “was never denied workers’ compensation benefits and services,” and still receives them, SRHS said.

Yeager had “numerous performance issues” that made him unqualified for the position, SRHS said.