Name the fastest way to get fired from your job after 10 years. a.) show up to work drunk b.) steal company funds c.) inform your employer you have just been approved for a life saving kidney transplant
WEST PALM BEACH —
Told his kidneys were barely working, Martin Cupid had one thought: He wanted to keep his job.
Rather than spend his days tethered to a dialysis machine, the Boynton Beach man found a doctor who recommended a treatment that allows Cupid to cleanse his system himself. Committed to finding a more permanent solution, he applied to the Shands Transplant Center at the University of Florida, hoping to be put on a waiting list to receive a new kidney.
When Cupid told his bosses at the Sysco Corp. he had been approved for a transplant, they congratulated him. Three days later, however, they told him to clean out his desk — his job as night manager at the food distribution giant’s Riviera Beach plant was being eliminated.
“It was unbelievable,” the 32-year-old father of three said Monday. “After working there 10 years and giving so much. It was shocking.”
His attorney says it also was illegal.
In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, attorney Don Boswell claims the Houston-based company violated Cupid’s rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The 22-year-old act requires employers to accommodate workers with health problems, Boswell said. In Cupid’s case, few accommodations were needed. “He can still work a 40-hour week,” Boswell said. At most, they would have had to give him time to flush his system, but Boswell said he would have done it during his dinner break.
Sysco attorney David Spector declined comment. Sysco officials told the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that Cupid was let go as part of downsizing related to the sagging economy.
However, according to company records, only four other workers were let go for financial reasons, Boswell said. All were terminated on Jan. 17, 2011 — four months before Cupid lost his $72,000-a-year job at the plant that employs more than 300. Further, he said, Sysco refused to even consider Cupid for other jobs.
“In this economy, it’s so easy for companies to say they’re downsizing,” he said. Too often, the real reason is they simply don’t want to be saddled with the costs and the need to give time off to a sick worker. It happens more than most people think, said Boswell, who specializes in employment law.
In August, a Lantana-area man sued Wells Fargo bank, claiming it trumped up reasons to fire him while he was working irregular hours while his 4-year-old daughter battled a rare form of cancer. Yovany Gonzalez’s young daughter eventually died.
When Cupid lost his job he also lost his insurance and was booted off the transplant list at Shands. While he and his children now have insurance through his wife’s job at the YMCA in Boynton Beach, Shands doesn’t accept the insurance.
Tampa General Hospital does, however, and after undergoing a battery of tests, he will learn soon whether he will be put on its transplant list. Because he has a rare blood type, it is likely he will have to wait three to five years before one becomes available. His wife is willing to donate if she is a match, or she may be able to swap a kidney with someone who is a match. In the meantime, he said, he wants to find work.
“I try volunteering,” he said. “But I like work. There’s nothing like working.”
But, he said, workers should be treated fairly.
He said he decided to file suit to right a wrong. “I feel it was because of the disability and I would like to get my job back. That was all I knew,” he said, explaining that Sysco was his first and only employer. “I liked working in a warehouse environment. I saw myself progressing a lot.”