University Custodian Claims She Was Fired for Contracting COVID-19

April 14, 2021

Custodians have been at a high risk for contracting COVID-19 as they clean hospitals, office buildings, and schools. The Roanoke Times reports a custodian at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia claims she was fired from her job after testing positive for COVID-19.

Ashley Montgomery, who worked as a custodian at the university since 2018, filed a lawsuit last week in the U.S. District Court in Roanoke, Virginia. Montgomery said in the lawsuit complaint that her termination was in violation of her rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The lawsuit states that Montgomery took medical leave on December 5, 2020 when she exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 and tested positive for the virus on December 7. Then on December 10, Montgomery received a letter from the university that she was immediately terminated for “repeated unsafe and inappropriate conduct.”

Montgomery denies those accusations in the lawsuit and included a letter form the former chair of the English Department, who called her “by far the best custodian our department has had over a long period of time.”

Montgomery said she recovered from coronavirus and wanted to return to work, but the university refused to reinstate her. Montgomery filed a lawsuit seeking reinstatement to her job along with US$100,000 for lost wages and other damages.

Washington and Lee University said in a statement that it is committed to the health and well-being of its students and staff and has provided free screening and paid time off for its employees affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We expect all members of our community to abide by our COVID-19 related community values understanding that failure to do so puts all students, faculty, and staff at risk and may result in disciplinary action,” the university statement read.

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