By Toby Tabachnick
The jury in a federal wrongful termination case filed against Burton Hirsch Funeral Home and its owner, Alderwoods Groups, delivered a mixed verdict last Friday, but awarded no damages to plaintiff Deborah Prise.
Although the jury found that Burton Hirsch and Alderwoods did retaliate against Prise by suspending her for filing discrimination charges against them with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it could not conclude whether she had been terminated from employment or had resigned.
“We are pleased that we vindicated her on the [retaliatory] suspension,” said Charles Saul, attorney for Prise. “We are considering an appeal on the issue of whether she resigned or was terminated.”
The case was originally filed in 2006 by two former employees of Burton Hirsch funeral home, and had contained allegations of sexual harassment, untoward funeral practices and religious discrimination. Judge Joy Conti dismissed most claims last fall, including all claims by plaintiff Heather Rady.
Prise claimed that she filed complaints with the EEOC and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission because her employer instructed to her to exhaust her vacation days when taking Jewish studies classes in Chicago, and because she had felt compelled to be present at the funeral home on a Saturday for a family’s visitation when she had asked the funeral home to reschedule the visitation so that it would not violate the Sabbath.
The attorney for Alderwoods, Leon DeJulius, declined to comment on the case.
(Toby Tabachnick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)