Jason Myers said his dismissal in February violated the Family Medical Leave Act. He filed a civil complaint in Cabarrus County Superior Court seeking more than $10,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. The suit says Myers suffers from a “major depressive disorder” and attempted suicide twice in 2008, when he was second in command to crew chief Bob Osborne during Edwards’ nine win Sprint Cup season. He had been demoted to mechanic at the start of 2009, shortly before a third suicide attempt six days before the season-opening Daytona 500.
“There are laws in place that permit people with depression to get the treatment they need, including the FLMA, which permits up to 12 weeks of medical leave per year,” Joshua Van Kampen, Myers’ lawyer, said Thursday. Myers filed a complaint June 1 with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and followed it the next day with the lawuit. Roush Fenway president Geoff Smith said the organization was aware only of the EEOC filing. “These are indeed litigious times,” Smith said. “These meritless claims would not be made at all in times of full employment in our industry, but in tough economic times, lottery tickets and lawsuits become more attractive. This is one of those times.”
Myers has been out of work since his firing, and currently is home taking care of his two children. According to the suit, Osborne encouraged Myers and his wife to not tell upper management at Roush about his first suicide attempt and offered to explain Myers’ absence from work as illness from mixing alcohol with the insulin he uses to treat diabetes.
The suit says he made a third suicide attempt Feb. 10 by overdosing on Tylenol and insulin. He was hospitalized for two days, diagnosed with a depressive disorder and encouraged to seek inpatient psychiatric treatment upon his discharge. He traveled to Arizona after his discharge for several weeks of such treatment.
The lawsuit contends that Myers’ wife informed Osborne of the third suicide attempt, but the crew chief dismissed it as an “attention tactic” and said Myers needed to get to Florida for that Sunday’s race. Jenny Myers instead went to Roush Fenway Racing, where she informed competition director Robbie Reiser of her husband’s suicide attempts and received FMLA paperwork from the human resources director.
Myers was discharged from the hospital Feb. 12, went to the race shop the next afternoon and was sent home by Reiser. He returned Monday, the day after Roush driver Matt Kenseth won the Daytona 500, with two completed FMLA certification forms. The suit says he was informed the next day by the HR director that he was being terminated for not reporting to work Feb. 13, the day after his hospital discharge.
The suit calls the dismissal “illogical” and says Jenny Myers’ receipt of the FMLA paperwork Feb. 12 made it obvious Jason Myers would not be at work the next day.