RN files suit, claims she was fired while on maternity leave
WILLIAMSPORT - A former registered nurse with VNA Health System in Shamokin has filed a federal lawsuit against the health care agency and one of its supervisors, claiming, among other things, she was illegally fired while on maternity leave.
Melissa Saleski-Shingara, of Tharptown, filed the suit Tuesday in U.S. District Court against the nursing agency and her former supervisor, Yvonne Timco, of Coal Township. She is seeking more than $75,000 plus attorney fees and punitive damages from the defendants in excess of $50,000.
Jessica A. Trell, VNA director of business development, said in an e-mailed response Friday to The News-Item seeking comment on the case, that it is company policy not to publicly discuss employment issues.
"However, we do deny any allegations and did not engage in any discriminatory conduct toward our employees, past or present," Trell wrote.
Saleski-Shingara, represented by attorney Franklin E. Kepner Jr., of Berwick, claims she suffered severe monetary loss, loss of reputation in the community, humiliation, emotional stress and other damages.
She claims VNA Health System caused her to be employed in a sexually and physically hostile environment, violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, treated her less favorably because she was pregnant and had small children, terminated her without cause and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and her rights under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Saleski-Shingara, who has five children and suffers from multiple sclerosis, was hired by VNA as a registered nurse in January 2006. She had children in 2011 and 2012 and took maternity leave on March 7, 2012, her suit says.
The plaintiff claims Timco, president of the VNA's eastern division, made improper, unflattering and hurtful comments regarding her pregnancies on numerous occasions.
She also claimed Timco harassed her about her pregnancy and her young children and punished her in regard to having off holidays despite having seniority.
In early May 2012, Saleski-Shingara received a letter from the VNA stating that nobody was able to get in contact with her while she was on maternity leave and that she was being considered as having abandoned her job. About 10 minutes after receiving the letter, the plaintiff said she called the VNA to inform them nobody told her to contact anyone while she was on maternity leave.
On May 9, 2012, the plaintiff was advised that the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) policy at the VNA had been revised after she began her maternity leave, and that after May 30, 2012, she no longer had any maternity leave or FMLA leave available.
Saleski-Shingara said she was advised that if she was unable to return to her job by May 31 that year, her employment would be concluded. Shortly thereafter, the plaintiff said she received a letter from a VNA official notifying her that the company had accepted her verbal resignation due to medical reasons. The plaintiff said she immediately informed her employer that she had not resigned.
She was terminated from VNA on May 31, 2012, the suit states.
The plaintiff says she was cleared to return to work June 15, 2012.
The suit also claims VNA terminated the plaintiff's health insurance that covered her medicine for multiple sclerosis. She said the medicine ordinarily costs approximately $2,800 per month.
She says she was unable to obtain medicine for treatment of her multiple sclerosis several times, causing her to become dizzy and lose her vision, according to the suit.
She also claimed a VNA official told her that if she had attempted to find a job, company lawyers would initiate legal action against her for violating two non-compete agreements that she signed when taking the VNA job. As a result, the plaintiff was unable to work from May 31, 2012, to Oct. 21, 2013, the suit says, and she lost wages, medical benefits and insurance and suffered great emotional and psychological damage.