Ex-headmaster files wrongful dismissal lawsuit against school district.
Former headmistress Mary Williams has filed a lawsuit against Florida’s Seminole County School District in Orlando alleging she was wrongly terminated and discriminated against because of her alcohol addiction problem. Williams is demanding more than $ 30,000 in damages because the district terminated their contract.
The lawsuit argues that Williams’ alcohol addiction was actually a disability and the district refused to comply with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Instead, the defendant tried to control the type of addiction treatment Williams would receive. Under the FMLA, employees who take up to twelve weeks off without pay for an alcohol use disorder and seek professional help cannot be terminated during their vacation and treatment.
During her contract at Hagerty High School, Williams was named Seminole County Headmistress of the Year in 2018. Just months after being given that designation, district officials sent the school principal a letter stating that she would not be reinstated for the 2019-2020 school year. The non-renewal did not reveal why Williams, who had earned a six-figure salary during his employment, was not eligible for return. She had no evidence of disciplinary action in her employment file.
Photo by Thanh Serious on Unsplash
Williams’ lawsuit states that the plaintiff was talking to her manager about her alcohol addiction problem and notified her of her addiction in December 2018. Two months later, in February, she spent time in a rehab facility. The lawsuit stated: “Williams returned to work on February 19 and attended a nationwide administrative meeting. She had not taken any medication or alcohol that day. But her manager told Williams to leave the meeting. The next day, supervisor told Williams that she could only return to school if a district-hired psychiatrist found her fit to work. “
Williams agreed, and according to the records, “The psychiatrist said Williams would only be released to return to work if she took monthly injections of Vivitrol, a drug used to treat alcohol addiction. Williams’ doctors and counselors didn’t want her to take this drug, partly because of possible side effects. “Common side effects from Vivitrol injections are nausea, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, and anxiety. As a result, Williams was reluctant to comply. In her lawsuit, she accused the district of “abusing its authority by commissioning a treatment program.”
FMLA protection does not prevent an employer from disciplining an employee for failing to meet business requirements under their employment contract, or prevents an employer from quitting because of someone who is behaving unacceptably. However, Williams had a clean file to match her lawsuit and was reportedly fired for no reason. Failure to comply with the psychiatrist’s request to take a drug that her medical team advised against is not inappropriate behavior.
The lawsuit was first filed in the Seminole Circuit Court in September. At the district’s request, it was subsequently transferred to a federal court for the US Middle District of Florida.
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