Resident Suing West Monroe Business, Accusing Federal Rights Violations

WEST MONROE (KTVE/KARD) -- Local resident Cora Wiggins claims her life will never be what it was again thanks to the actions of her former employer, Coast Professional, Inc. in West Monroe.

She's accusing them of retaliating against her for exercising her federal rights.

Wiggins said it started when her son Brayden, born with seizures, was hospitalized for those seizures in 2011.

"They wanted verification and a discharge date. I mean, you just got put into the hospital. How do you get a discharge date?" Wiggins said.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's website, under the Family and Medical Leave Act, commonly known as FMLA, employees can be given a 12-week, job-protected unpaid leave for care of their children, immediate family or their own health.

Wiggins claims CPI never offered her that.

"When I got back to work, no one ever offered FMLA," she said. "No one ever said anything about FMLA, but I got 'occurrences' for my son being in the hospital."

Wiggins said they were filed as occurrences of absence each day she wasn't at work while she was with her son.

She said she, Brayden and her other son Isaac fell prey to more health issues and hospitalizations in the next year.

Each time, Wiggins said CPI just noted her absent.

"They need to be aware. If they do not know how to proceed with FMLA, they need to be trained," she said.

Wiggins said CPI gave her the FMLA leave in 2013 after a newly hired human resources employee asked management why she hadn't been given it yet.

Just as the company told Wiggins the leave was about to run out in August 2013, she said both her sons were in the hospital undergoing surgery, so she asked for one more week of absence, which she said was denied.

"Just to get them discharged, back in school and my life back in order and you couldn't even have the compassion to give me a week's leave of absence," Wiggins said.

Later in the same month her FMLA leave ended, Wiggins claimed she was terminated for excessive absent write-ups.

But CPI denies that.

According to the company's attorney, Magdalen Bickford, they had other legitimate reasons for firing Wiggins.

In Bickford's official release of the company's responses, CPI denied any knowledge of Wiggins' family's medical condition.

CPI also denies knowledge of her final request for leave.

Bickford said in a statement to KTVE/KARD: "Coast Professional firmly denies Ms. Wiggins's allegations, which they feel are without merit and not based in fact.  As this is a pending litigation, we have no further comment at this time."

Wiggins said this stress has sent her to the hospital and she can't get another job yet because she's still under a doctor's care.

"It's hard to know that I can't provide for my kids anymore like I did before," she said.

Wiggins accuses CPI for retaliating against her FMLA usage, suing them for one count of Retaliation In Violation of FMLA and one count of Interference with Plaintiff's Substantive Rights Under the FMLA.

CPI denies any violations of the FMLA.

Wiggins said her lawsuit is a warning to future employees to know their rights.

"If there's another single parent sitting in that office doesn't have to go through what I went through. That is my whole logistics of all of this," she said.

Before KTVE/KARD interviewed Wiggins on Monday, "The Wall Street Journal" traveled to West Monroe to interview her on this same issue.

The trial date for this lawsuit has been set for April 20th, 2015 at 9 a.m. at the Monroe Federal Courthouse.

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