Patch.com hounded sick woman to work from hospital hours after giving birth, lawsuit claims
A former Golden Valley Patch employee claims the way she was treated by her bosses amounted to abuse.
A lawsuit filed by Mary Vandergrift, a former employee of Golden Valley Patch, alleges that higher ups in the AOL-owned company repeatedly hounded her to work from the hospital, regardless of whether she was there because her Crohn's disease was flaring up or because she'd just given birth.
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According to a Pioneer Press report, Vandergrift, 36, alleges the way she was treated was "abusive" and violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Family Medical Leave Act, among other laws.
Vandergrift doesn't name names, but a copy of her employment contract reveals that her boss was former Patch regional editor Matthew Peiken. Peiken now works for a TV station in Cincinnati, the PiPress reports.
According to the lawsuit, in December 2010, Vandergrift was hired for a $45,000-per-year full-time freelance position with Patch. The next month, she felt sick upon returning from training in New York City and had to go to the hospital. She informed her bosses about both her illness and pregnancy from the hospital, and in response, they asked her "if she had brought her laptop with her so she could work from her hospital bed," the suit says.
Vandergrift, again sick from Crohn's, was granted a short-term disability leave weeks later. She returned to her job in February, but the rest of her winter and spring were plagued by recurring illnesses that made it difficult for her to work.
She was sick on May 22, the day a tornado ripped through her North Minneapolis neighborhood. Asked to head out and take photos by her boss, Vandergrift "asked if anyone else could cover it because cars could not get through and she would have to walk for blocks," the suit says. "Her supervisor told her that she had to cover it or else be in jeopardy of losing her job -- but to take comfort in the fact that the adrenaline rush would likely make her feel better."
She ended up heading out to work, but landed in the emergency room again the next day.
On July 5, she gave birth and was supposed to begin a six-week parenting leave, but "within four to five hours of delivering, defendant emailed plaintiff to congratulate her and simultaneously ask her to work from her hospital bed," the suit says.
Vandergrift left Patch in March 2012.
Jon Collins, former editor of the Southwest Minneapolis Patch site, wasn't surprised to hear about Vadergrift's lawsuit:
For what it's worth, both Southwest and Golden Valley Patch are among the 13 Minnesota Patch sites AOL is cutting ties with in the weeks to come. The sites will close unless another partner can be found.
Patch's cuts go beyond Minnesota. Earlier this month, AOL Boss Tim Armstrong announced that about 40 percent of the Patch's national workforce was getting laid off.
-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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