A former driver for a company that transports crude oil by truck is suing his ex-employer, alleging he was fired in March for taking time off to deal with symptoms he believed were related to the coronavirus.
The allegations in Edward Lucero Jr.’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Sentinel Transportation LLC include wrongful discharge, disability discrimination, failure to accommodate a disability and retaliation. He seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the suit filed Monday.
“Lucero’s termination came at the worst time due to the pandemic (because) no one was hiring,” the suit states.
The lawsuit does not specifically state whether Lucero was diagnosed with the coronavirus.
A Sentinel Transportation representative could not be immediately reached for comment.
Sentinel’s trucks move oil from wellhead to gathering points and storage tanks throughout the country with more than 300 drivers, including Lucero, who was hired Feb. 26, the suit states.
Lucero had worked for Sentinel before and returned just as the pandemic was starting to take hold in the United States, the suit states. On March 3, he began to experience symptoms that were “commonly understood to be associated” with COVID-19 and that day he told management that he was too ill to report to work the next day, the suit states.
On March 5, he again told management he was too sick to work and that he might have contracted the coronavirus, the suit states. He asked to take March 6 off and that same day he was examined by a doctor who prescribed cough medication and cleared him to return to work on March 12, information he gave management, the suit states.
Sentinel requested that Lucero provide a doctor’s note excusing his absences along with proof that he had been examined on March 6, the suit states. When the plaintiff asked for the note, his doctor told him there would be a delay because his insurance enrollment was still being processed, according to the suit.
On March 11, the day before he was scheduled to return to work, Lucero received a note from his medical professionals excusing his absences from Sentinel from March 6-11, information the plaintiff turned over to Sentinel, the suit states.
While Lucero was still waiting for his doctor’s note confirming his visit on March 6, Sentinel called Lucero and told him he had been fired for having failed to provide the requested doctor’s note, according to the suit. Lucero explained that he had asked for the note, was waiting for his doctor to provide it and that his insurance enrollment process was delaying his receipt of it, the suit states.
Sentinel did not agree to reinstate Lucero, the suit states. On March 17, he received the doctor’s note Sentinel had requested confirming that he had visited on March 6, according to the suit. He provided the note to Sentinel and requested that his employment be reinstated, but the company refused and told him that he remained fired, the suit states.
Lucero believes he lost his job because he was disabled and/or because he requested time off to deal with his own illness, the suit states.
The firing caused Lucero severe financial hardship and emotional distress, the suit alleges.