"Bed bug" lawsuit allowed to go forward

Whenever I think I've heard everything, I hear something else.

A federal judge allowed a wrongful discharge lawsuit to go forward, and the dispute is about bed bugs.


Plaintiff Muriel Beck worked at a Philadelphia call center for CNO Financial Group, Inc. According to her lawsuit, she and her co-workers began noticing that they always had bug bites. Ms. Beck claims the call center was infested with bed bugs. A doctor wrote her out of work. (Ms. Beck alleged that CNO's call center had other vermin as well, including mice and other unspecified "pests.")

In addition to being excused from work, Ms. Beck filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. She also filed a claim for unemployment so that she could be compensated while she was out of work. Although her supervisor allegedly approved her request for leave, she claims that she was terminated for job "abandonment" during days that she had been approved for leave. 

Ms. Beck sued CNO (and its affiliated companies and some individual managers), claiming that she was wrongfully discharged for filing an OSHA complaint and for seeking unemployment. CNO tried to get the lawsuit dismissed for failure to state a legal claim.

But the judge said that Ms. Beck had stated a valid claim for wrongful termination under Pennsylvania law. 

(CNO's motion to dismiss was filed in the very early stages of the case, so the court was required to assume that all of the allegations in Ms. Beck's lawsuit were true. After discovery, CNO will have a chance to present evidence in its favor . . . including, possibly, evidence that its Philly office really isn't a haven for bed bugs, mice, and other vermin.)

I sure hope not. Eww.

Image Credit: From flickr, Creative Commons license, by Charles LeBlanc.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
Continue Reading



Back to Page