Former Anthem Employee Ties Firing to Contracting COVID-19

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A former employee of the Anthem Companies Inc. is suing the health insurance provider, alleging she was wrongfully fired in 2022 for contracting the coronavirus and harassed by her boss for not being vaccinated against the malady.

Rhiannon Torgerson's Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit alleges wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, retaliation and failure to prevent all three as well as failure to accommodate and engage in the interactive process. The 45-year-old Moorpark resident seeks unspecified damages.

An Anthem representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the suit brought Jan. 12.

Torgerson was hired in July 2015 and worked as a strategic sourcing consultant for the Woodland Hills-based company. The plaintiff contracted the COVID-19 virus in 2021 and suffered severe cognitive issues, headaches and heart problems, the suit states. Torgerson's supervisor soon began harassing her because of her disability, telling her that she "must regret not getting a vaccine because she wouldn't have suffered severe disease," the suit states.

Torgerson found her boss' comments "offensive, demeaning and inappropriate," according to the suit.

Torgerson's doctor placed her on medical leave in June 2021 and her time off was approved for a year, the suit states.

In April 2022, a representative of Anthem's human resources department called and asked Torgerson if she could return to work, but the plaintiff replied that her doctor did not believe she should go back at that time, the suit states.

Torgerson called human resources in early June 2022 and said her physician would permit her to return with some work restrictions, the suit states. She prepared to go back to her job later that month, but her boss contacted her and said her position was no longer available and that she should not return to the office, in effect firing her, the suit states.

Torgerson believes Anthem discriminated and retaliated against her based upon her illness and her request for accommodations.

"Defendants also subjected the plaintiff to harassment by commenting that (she) must regret not getting a vaccine because she wouldn't have suffered severe disease," according to the suit, which further states that Torgerson has suffered lost wages and benefits, plus "severe and profound pain and emotional distress," and that she also has incurred medical and counseling expenses.

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