A former employee is suing the University for wrongful termination.
In a 13-page complaint filed in the D.C. Superior Court Friday, former technology research director Donald DuRousseau alleges that GW violated multiple D.C. laws by firing him after he was diagnosed with cancer. DuRousseau is asking for an unspecified award for the financial and emotional stress he experienced as a result of his termination, the lawsuit states.
“At the time of termination, GW knew that Mr. DuRousseau was suffering from cancer and had surgery and treatments planned,” the complaint states. “Rather than accommodate Mr. DuRousseau or provide him with the requested medical leave as required under the law, GW fired him.”
DuRousseau started working for the University in May 2014 but “fell seriously ill” in the fall of 2018, which caused him to miss several days of work, according to the complaint.
The former employee states in the claim that he experienced severe abdominal pain during a work meeting in San Diego in February. The pain forced him to pay out of pocket for a flight home to receive a bone marrow biopsy, according to the report.
DuRousseau’s physician diagnosed him with stage four hairy cell leukemia on Feb. 13 , the report states. DuRousseau claims that he informed officials of his illness the same day he was diagnosed and requested that GW grant him medical leave from February 18 to April 1.
The University terminated DuRousseau’s employment the day after he sent his medical leave request, according to the report. University spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said the University has not been served the complaint and cannot comment on the specifics of the claims.
“The University is committed to treating its employees fairly and lawfully, and we look forward to demonstrating that we did so in this case,” Nosal said in an email.
DuRousseau’s lawyer did not immediately return a request for comment.
DuRousseau claims the University violated the D.C. Family Medical Leave Act, which mandates that employers offer their workers 16 weeks of unpaid medical leave time. An employee is eligible for unpaid medical leave if they are recovering from a serious illness and are unable to work, according to the measure.
He is also claiming the University violated the D.C. Human Rights Act by discriminating against him based on his age. He alleges the University “acted with extreme and outrageous conduct” and spread false information that he quit his job voluntarily upon discovering his cancer, the complaint states.