Ex-employee files lawsuit against Berkeley Lab for alleged wrongful termination

Sally Dowd/Staff

Related Posts

Jacquelyn Smith, a former employee at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, filed a lawsuit against her ex-employer Thursday, alleging the lab discriminated against her for her disability.

Smith worked as a Senior Conference Planner at the Berkeley Lab from 2012 until her employment was terminated Oct. 14, 2016. The lawsuit alleged that Smith was discriminated against and dismissed because of a developed disability, which restricted her ability to work regular hours.

Berkeley Lab declined to comment, citing a policy that they do not comment on pending litigation. The UC Office of the President, another defendant in the suit, could not be reached as of press time.

On March 28, 2016, Smith reported to her supervisor Jamie Butler that she was experiencing severe pain in her feet due to working a large conference the previous week, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit added that she was sent home to rest by a medical doctor, but returned to work the next week. The following month, Berkeley Lab had classified Smith’s injury as a worker’s compensation case and the lab’s health services began to provide her medical care, the lawsuit stated.

Because of her injury, Smith’s doctor, Charles Laroche, advised her to return to her job with “modified work duties.” The lawsuit alleged, however, that the lab’s upper management and Butler expressed concern over these accommodations in a conference call that took place in July 2016.

On Sept. 16, 2016,  Laroche allegedly informed Smith that someone had contacted the doctor’s office who wanted to restore her full-time working hours as soon as possible, according to the lawsuit. Due to pressure from the employer, the lawsuit alleged, the doctor recommended that Smith return to working normal hours after Sept. 26, 2016.  The lawsuit alleged that Smith was not immediately informed of these changes.

Later that month, the Human Resources department at Berkeley Lab allegedly issued a letter of intent to dismiss Smith without providing previous warning, according to the lawsuit. Berkeley Lab stated that they had dismissed Smith for falsifying documents — a justification that the lawsuit alleged is “false and fabricated.”

Smith’s attorney Daniel Feder could not be reached for comment as of press time.

Smith is asking for compensation for her loss of wages as well as punitive damages, among other costs.

Contact Azwar Shakeel at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @azwarshakeel12.