Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. allegedly violated federal, state, and city laws when it fired an employee who became disabled after a motor vehicle accident, according to the law firm Outten & Golden LLP.
Kiki Paris, former Senior Director of National Accounts for Body & Soul Magazine, which is owned by Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. MSO, filed the complaint in New York federal court Tuesday.
According to the complaint, Ms. Paris, a 53-year-old Manhattan resident, had generated millions of dollars in advertising revenue for Body & Soul prior to being struck by a car while crossing a street in May 2008. She suffered severe injuries in the accident, including multiple fractures to her spine and traumatic injury to her left arm. Ms. Paris notified the company of her accident and that she required a leave of absence from work.
Despite knowing about the seriousness of her injuries, and the fact that she was on leave, Ms. Paris’s supervisors nonetheless demanded that she work from home. Her supervisors repeatedly asked her to call her clients and to tell them about her accident as a way to win “sympathy” business.
The lawsuit also alleges that the defendants demanded that she regularly check e-mail and then reprimanded her for not immediately responding to e-mails – at a time when Ms. Paris was confined to a seven-pound metal halo that was screwed to her skull and connected to a hard plastic body vest. She could not move her head and neck nor lift her left arm, so she experienced severe pain when attempting to use her computer and BlackBerry device.
Within a month of surgery, Ms. Paris’s supervisors began to pressure her to get off leave and to return to work, the lawsuit alleges. Fearing that she would lose her job, she agreed to work from home. Less than three weeks after Ms. Paris resumed working, a Martha Stewart Living manager and an employee from human resources delivered a letter to Ms. Paris’s home notifying her that the company had terminated her.
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The complaint alleges that the conduct of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. violated federal and local laws which prohibit disability and age discrimination, as well as federal laws – such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – which protect employees’ rights to medical leave and disability benefits.
Ms. Paris, who had earned stellar performance evaluations, accolades and a promotion prior to her injuries, said, “I was devastated when Martha Stewart’s company which I had worked so hard for ignored my pleas for temporary relief from work, and then they forced me off leave and fired me.”
The lawsuit seeks lost wages and benefits, compensatory damages, and other relief.
The case is “Kiki Paris v. Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc.; Body & Soul Omnimedia, Inc.; and Martha Stewart, individually,” in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.
Attorney Contacts: Tammy Marzigliano and Ossai Miazad, Outten & Golden LLP, New York, 212.245.1000