Wasilla woman’s lawsuit says she was fired after asking to telework amid COVID-19

The federal court building for the District of Alaska (Julia O’Malley/Alaska Public Media)

A Wasilla woman says her former employer in Anchorage fired her after she asked to work from home due to her concerns over COVID-19 and caring for her daughter.

Kimberly Thacker claims in her lawsuit against Quest Diagnostics that the company violated the Family Medical Leave Act when it refused her requests to telework and then terminated her over the ongoing dispute in March.

According to the lawsuit, Thacker started working for Quest in 2007 as a supervisor and that her complaints against the company actually started before the pandemic, in September 2019. According to the lawsuit, that’s when Thacker asked to take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act to care for her daughter, who had been diagnosed with a disability.

Thacker’s lawyer declined to specify the daughter’s disability but said it is an Americans with Disabilities Act-qualified disability.

The FMLA protects employment for workers who need to take unpaid leave in certain situations, including to care for a child with a serious health condition.

Thacker says in the lawsuit that her supervisor discouraged her from taking the leave time last September, and she was given an “unwarranted final warning for an alleged compliance violation.”

The issue came up again in mid-March, when the growing pandemic started to force businesses to shut down and thousands of Alaskans to work from home. Thacker says she asked to take leave or telework because of her daughter’s compromised immune system and a lack of personal protective equipment at work, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit says Thacker’s supervisor told her she was considered an “essential” employee and therefore needed to be physically present in the workplace. Thacker disputes that, because she says other supervisors at her same level had been allowed to telework.

Quest eventually fired Thacker, the lawsuit says.

Now Thacker is suing, not only for lost wages, but also over her potential future earnings and emotional distress.

“(Quest’s) actions caused my client financial and emotional harm during this already very trying time,” said Sara Bloom, Thacker’s attorney.

A spokesperson for Quest at its corporate headquarters said the company does not comment on pending litigation.