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CPBJ Extra Blog

Former Fulton employee sues company because of firing

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Midstate commuters know about traffic headaches. Driving on the Capital Beltway, the Carlisle Pike or the Route 30 corridors in either Lancaster or York can be a stressful, maddening time-suck filled with delays, construction and/or road rage.

But we’ll all admit it’s not as bad as the Philadelphia area — on most days, at least — in trying to navigate the Schuylkill, the Blue Route or Kelly Drive.

Apparently, a one-time Fulton Financial Corp. employee in suburban Philadelphia claims she actually got sick from traffic.

Not sick like, “Geez, I’m so sick of this!” but more like psychologically, mentally sick. And she claimed in a lawsuit that she was fired from her Philly-area marketing position at Fulton because of that.

The lawsuit filed by Andrea DeGerolamo that recently moved to federal court in New Jersey claims Fulton fired her in May 2013 because of a disability she developed that was exacerbated while driving in high-traffic areas.

DeGerolamo said a doctor diagnosed her with general anxiety disorder and depression in August 2012 and that her condition “was especially aggravated by crowded roadways experienced during the heavy traffic of rush hour,” according to the suit.

She left work on medical leave for treatment, according to the suit. She returned in November 2012 and under doctor mandate asked for a “reasonable accommodation” where she could come in to work after the morning commute and leave before the afternoon rush.

Fulton gave that accommodation, but later rescinded it, according to the suit, and offered no other accommodation. The company also moved DeGerolamo into more of a clerical role from her marketing duties.

Fulton fired DeGerolamo in May 2013, the suit states. She’s looking for compensatory damages and compensation for future earnings, among other financial items.

OK, something is missing. In civil lawsuits, something usually is, because it’s only one side of the story designed to convince a judge that there is something worth fighting for in the case. Maybe these are the facts, but something is missing. Lancaster-based Fulton didn’t get to where it is — a nearly $17-billion-asset company — by making trivial mistakes like this.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the company or her bosses were “out to get her.” It’s rare, but, yeah, it happens. In that case, the company probably kept triple or quadruple copies of every incident, accident or misuse of the water fountain DeGerolamo had in her time there.

So what’s missing is those little things, however petty they are, that the company documented against DeGerolamo in case of a future issue just like this.

But when Fulton shows its evidence, that won’t be the end of the story either. Many times, civil suits are just a collection of he-said-she-said evidence, and you leave it up to a judge and jury to figure out who is more believable -- although I’ll say there is a 99 percent chance this is one case that never sees the inside of a courtroom. It will be settled or dismissed, but I seriously doubt either side wants to see this play out in public.

My one major issue with this is the DeGerolamo plan of coming in late and leaving early. I’m all for making an accommodation, but why isn’t it coming in late and leaving late? Or coming in early and leaving early? Or here’s another one — come in on weekends, when there is only mild traffic, to make up lost time?

But the coming in late and leaving early, no matter what the condition, usually ends up being a detriment to the workplace. It’s only a matter of time before other employees start griping about it or start asking for it themselves.

Maybe this whole thing happened, maybe it didn’t. But it would sure be an interesting case if it ever did see the courtroom.

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