OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A Nebraska man has sued his former employer, saying the company fired him because his medical bills were contributing to the company's rising cost of health insurance and he refused to fire another employee adding to those costs.
Theodore Bowser said in the federal lawsuit, initially filed in Lancaster County, that he was fired from WDD Inc., a lumber, millwork and window company in Omaha, in October 2011 after working there for five months. Bowser said he has a disability that requires expensive medical treatment, and that WDD was aware of that when he was hired.
Bowser also said he was asked by WDD to fire a subordinate who has a relative with a serious illness insured under the company's health plan. Bowser said he refused and that the company retaliated by terminating his position.
The company denied the allegations, arguing in a court brief that Bowser had not pursued other avenues for relief before bringing a lawsuit. It also said WWD did not "engage in any intentional discrimination with malice or reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of" Bowser.
The company's attorney, Christopher Hoyme, did not immediately return a message left for him Thursday.
The lawsuit said Bowser was one of several people laid off due to the rising cost of health insurance. Following the layoff, he said, a nondisabled person was hired to replace him.
Bowser's attorney, Kathleen Neary of Lincoln, said Thursday that the company's actions violated state and federal law banning discrimination against those with disabilities.
"Employers cannot just hire Superman or Wonder Woman as their employees," Neary said.
Bowser's lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount for various damages, including lost wages and benefits, attorney's fees and punitive damages. Bowser also asked to be reinstated to his job or be compensated for the loss of future wages and benefits.