Coronavirus patient says Diplomat Pharmacy fired her for being ill
(6/30/2020) - “To hear the words, we're going to have to let you go, it was like somebody had punched me in the gut,” Morgan Blue said.
Weeks after losing her uncle and cousin to COVID-19, the Flint woman said she's now lost her job.
ABC12 News first shared Morgan Blue’s COVID-19 survival story in April. She had just returned home after nearly two weeks in the ICU fighting coronavirus.
She reached out to ABC12's Ann Pierret after she was let go this month.
Blue worked inside Diplomat Specialty Pharmacy, now owned by UnitedHealth Group's OptumRx.
She said she was in the Envoy Health department that helped people struggling with addiction stay on track with their sobriety. It’s a job she was passionate about.
“We're really working like a therapist,” Blue explained. “Because these people are pouring their hearts out to us, you know, we have to make sure that we say the right thing and still be personable.”
Blue said she never got into any trouble at work and had a great relationship with her bosses throughout her first 9 months on the job.
But mid-March, she left work feeling sick and ended up spending a combined 12 days in and out of the ICU. She had contracted COVID-19.
One of the first things Blue said she did was call her boss.
“She did let me know, you're okay Morgan, you're at the hospital that's different, so don't worry about it,” Blue said. “And that's what they always will tell me -- don't worry about it, get better, get well, just keep us afloat as to what was going on, which is what I always did.”
Blue contacted HR when she got out of the hospital. She said they put her on what's called Diploleave -- 12 weeks off unpaid. When that ran out, she was given additional time off under ADA.
But, then she got a call from her boss and HR on June 1st.
“They let me know, Morgan, you haven't provided us with the return to work date, which was absolutely false. I did,” she explained. “They said we can't hold your position any longer, because when you return to work, it's not definite.”
An email from HR confirms the conversation. The Senior Human Resources Business Partner wrote, "Currently there is no other leave time available to you and Diplomat can no longer accommodate your absence."
“I was sick. I was near death. I was in the hospital, I was in the ICU. Did I want those things to happen and take place? Absolutely not. If I could, you know, have that just go away, I would; but, it was something that I had no control over.”
Blue said she talks all day at her job and her doctor didn't want her to return too soon, worried because her lungs were still healing.
And, she believed she was protected under the Governor's order - prohibiting employers from this exact behavior.
On top of this, as ABC12 News shared in April, Blue’s uncle and young cousin died from COVID-19 just rooms away from her at the hospital.
Blue thought a paycheck would be the one stable thing she'd have at the end of the pandemic.
“I feel like they should have considered all of these things before making such a harsh, such a harsh decision,” she said.
ABC12 News did reach out to Diplomat. The Corporate Communications Manager sent this statement:
“We are committed to providing compassionate support for our employees who contract COVID-19, and to helping them return to work safely after they are fully recovered. While we cannot address individual employee situations, we are reaching out to Ms. Blue directly to discuss her concerns.”