A former employee of Arconic Corp., parent company of Kawneer, has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court of Western Pennsylvania alleging that the company violated the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) by firing him due to work he missed while recovering from COVID-19.
According to the complaint, attorney Daniel Burbach, Jr., a resident of New York City, was slated to work as assistant general counsel, corporate and securities for Arconic Corp., a spinoff company of Arconic Inc. after its split into Howmet Aerospace and Arconic Corp. on April 1, 2020. He would have transitioned from Arconic’s New York office to an office in Pittsburgh. However, both offices were closed due to COVID-19 and employees were asked to work remotely.
Burbach says he then moved his family out of New York to a relative’s vacant apartment in Miami during the crisis. According to the complaint, he let his employers know that he would be driving to Florida on March 18-19, 2020 and received their approval for time off. On March 20, he began to experience symptoms and soon received a COVID-19 diagnosis.
“On or about March 23, 2020, Burbach notified Margaret Lam and [executive vice president and chief legal officer] Diana Toman that his illness had worsened and he requested time away from work to recover from his serious health condition. Burbach’s inability to work full time caused challenges to his employer. His group was thinly staffed and severely overworked due to the upcoming separation of Arconic Inc. and Arconic Corp. and was not staffed to handle the loss of one team member. Deadlines were missed, and Ms. Toman claimed it was difficult to keep up with all the last minute separation-related tasks,” reads the complaint.
He returned to working remotely full time March 28-30, during which he was notified he could not stay at the apartment in Miami. According to the complaint, physicians advised him not to return to New York due to the rising case numbers and risk of reinfection.
Burbach then relocated to his spouse’s family home in the country of Slovenia. In the complaint, Burbach states that he notified Toman of his intention and received approval for his request for time off April 1-4 to accommodate the move. On April 3, Toman informed Burbach that the company changed its mind and could not accommodate him working in Europe despite others working remotely throughout the U.S., according to the complaint.
In response, Burbach informed Toman that he believed the refusal to accommodate him was because he was impaired by COVID-19 during a difficult time for the company. The complaint includes her emailed response to his belief, in which she said the action was not related to his illness but due to work not being completed. Shortly after she sent the email, Toman fired Burbach “because, she wrote, the company could not accommodate Burbach’s request to temporarily work remotely outside of the continental United States,” reads the complaint.
Burbach is accusing Arconic Corp. of interference with FMLA rights and retaliation.