Philadelphia Employment Law News

Sheriff Lotwick Retaliation Lawsuit Thrown Out by Fed. Court

A former employee of the Dauphin County Sheriff’s department lost her wrongful dismissal lawsuit against her former employer, a federal court ruled this week.

Tina Francis, a former administrative assistant to Sheriff Jack Lotwick, brought the lawsuit after she claimed she was fired for seeking workers’ compensation. Francis underwent surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.

She was fired in November 2011 for what the Sheriff's department alleged was "serious misconduct." According to the Sheriff's department, she had misused a computerized search system.

Francis claimed these were "trumped up" charges to cover up the fact that she was dismissed for filing a workers' comp claim. She alleged that these charges were in retaliation to her workers' comp claim.

In her lawsuit, Francis alleges that her employers didn't fully believe that her carpal tunnel was legitimately serious, despite her doctor's orders to undergo surgery and file a workers' comp claim.

A wrongful termination claim, such as the one Tina Francis filed, essentially states that the worker was fired for an unlawful reason. One of these unlawful reasons is to fire someone in retaliation for filing a complaint or claim against the employer.

In her lawsuit, Francis asked for $150,000 in damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress.

Her lawsuit wasn't dismissed because it lacked merit. It was dismissed for purely procedural reasons. She brought the lawsuit in the wrong court. She brought her lawsuit in federal court. The court dismissed her case, for the reason that her case presented no valid Federal civil rights claim.

In order to bring a lawsuit in federal court, there has to be a violation of a federal statute related to employment. Some employment attorneys like filing cases in federal court, largely due to the fact that federal statutes often provide for attorneys fees and costs to the wronged employee.

Despite her lawsuit being thrown out by federal court, Francis can still file her case in state court, if she decides to continue.

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