Ex-River Bluff employee sues county

• Winnebago resident alleges her termination violated the Family and Medical Leave Act

A Winnebago resident filed suit in United States District Court Feb. 27 against Winnebago County alleging her Jan. 10, 2003, termination from River Bluff Nursing Home violated The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993.

Robin Albright was employed at River Bluff Nursing Home, Winnebago County’s 304-bed nursing home, as a registered nurse from Jan. 13, 1986, until her Jan. 10, 2003, termination. She is asking for compensatory damages, payment of attorney’s fees and court costs, and all damages allowed by law, and requested a trial by jury.

Albright, represented by Scott R. Erwin of DeKalb, alleges in her complaint that while being granted FMLA leave from July 27, 2002, through Oct. 27, 2002, she “fully complied with the Employee Assistance plan prescribed by her employer” and was “ready to return to work in August of 2002 but was told that there were no positions for her at River Bluff Nursing Home.”

The nursing home had sent Albright home June 17, 2002, due to health concerns and, shortly thereafter, she began an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for substance abuse treatment. Albright continued to work at River Bluff while undergoing the EAP treatment.

According to the complaint, Albright had a “Back to Work Release” dated Aug. 13, 2002, from her doctor stating she was ready to return to work “without restrictions” when she was denied a position in August 2002. The FMLA states that employees are permitted to take up to 12 weeks off and still be able to return to their same or equivalent job for at least one month.

Albright was not accepted for any of the positions she applied and interviewed for with Winnebago County. The county based its decision to not allow Albright to return to work on two drug tests that showed Albright was still using non-prescribed medication, the complaint reads. Albright alleges in her complaint that the two drug tests “were analyzed and compared incorrectly.”

The complaint also states that Albright was never notified by River Bluff that her work was in any way unsatisfactory and that she has “suffered serious loss of income, the loss of her salary and benefits, and has suffered severe emotional damages” due to her termination.

In a February 2003 interview with The Rock River Times, Winnebago County Assistant State’s Attorney Chuck Prorok said, “On the information known to the county, all employment decisions regarding Ms. Albright were appropriate and right.”

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