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updated: 7/23/2014 11:39 AM

Naperville rehab facility faces lawsuit over firing employee on leave

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A transitional care and rehabilitation services facility in Naperville is being sued by a federal agency for firing an employee who was on a medical leave of absence.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claims in a lawsuit filed this week that Alden Estates of Naperville, Inc., violated federal law by terminating its admissions director before she was scheduled to return to work.

The director left work in early December 2012 after experiencing medical symptoms. It later was learned she had a blood disorder that might lead to cancer.

After Alden Estates found the woman wouldn't be able to return to work until Jan. 14, 2013, it fired her one week before that date, EEOC officials said. The woman's replacement was hired on Jan. 13, 2013.

EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson said in a written statement that this isn't a case where someone took a long time off the job.

"The woman went out in December and was ready to come back in January," Hendrickson said. "But Alden Estates moved with considerable speed to put her on the street. It's hard to understand why the company could not wait one more week for the admissions director to return to work."

A woman who answered the phone Wednesday morning at Alden Estates of Naperville said supervisors who could speak to the media were in a meeting. She said they may return the call later.

The EEOC, which enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, claims there never was a good reason for Alden Estates to fire the employee.

"It jumped the gun because of her disability or because it regarded her as disabled," Hendrickson said.

The lawsuit, which was filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, came after failed attempts to reach a settlement, officials said.

The agency says it's seeking an order barring future discrimination. It also wants back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the former admissions director.

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