Judge sides with Wash U School of Medicine in former employee's retaliation suit

By Sam Knef | Nov 24, 2017

ST. LOUIS — U.S. District Judge Rodney W. Sippel has granted summary judgment to Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in a former employee's retaliation lawsuit. 

Sandra Lovelace and her husband Stephen Lovelace filed suit in 2015 after Sandra was terminated from her position as a medical assistant. In her suit, Sandra Lovelace claimed she was improperly retaliated against for taking time off work under provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and retaliated against in violation of the Missouri Human Rights Act (MHRA) because she complained about being labeled a racist and complained about disability accommodations.

In an order dated Nov. 13, Sippel held that Lovelace failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact necessary to demonstrate she suffered "race-based retaliation" under the MHRA. She had claimed that her employer retaliated against her for having made a remark that another co-worker who was African-American did not like to work with white people.

"Lovelace asserts that her supervisors falsely accused her of being a racist following this incident and retaliated by terminating her after she complained to human resources," Sippel wrote. "It is unclear how Lovelace could have a reasonable good faith belief that her race-related comments would entitle her to protection."

Sippel also wrote that Lovelace failed to demonstrate how her complaints about being labeled a racist contributed to her termination.

Regarding disability-based retaliation, Sippel held that Lovelace failed to establish a genuine issue of material fact demonstrating disability-based retaliation under the MHRA.

"She asserts that she sought an accommodation because she had temporary work restrictions upon returning from FMLA leave and she complained to human resources representatives concerning these restrictions," he wrote. "However, Lovelace does not actually allege that she was disabled, nor does she provide any evidence demonstrating that she made any request or complaint related to disability accommodations."

Sippel also rejected Stephen Lovelace's loss of consortium claims, holding that his "loss of consortium claim is not actionable because Lovelace’s predicate claims have failed."

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Barnes-Jewish Hospital U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri Washington University

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