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Michigan woman fired for asking to work from home amid coronavirus

A Michigan pharmacy employee claims she was fired for pushing to work remotely after the state’s governor issued an executive order for all non-essential workers to stay home, according to a new report.

Amber Gorby, who worked as a retail sales manager at the HomeTown Pharmacy chain’s headquarters, said she made her case at a staff meeting about an hour after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered businesses “to suspend in-person operations that are not essential to sustain or protect life” on March 23, The Detroit Free Press reported.

“It just didn’t go over well,” Gorby told the outlet.

She got to go home — but with a termination letter, she said.

“Today was another example of our differences becoming something that spills over and affects the greater team,” HomeTown President Jonathan Grice wrote, in part.

“The disagreement in the meeting today showed that you are not willing to exemplify the values that HomeTown Pharmacy is committing to hold its teammates to.”

Now, Gorby has taken her case to the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and her attorney sued the pharmacy — in a case that could help define the legal limits of Whitmer’s executive orders, according to the Press.

“This comes down to values to me,” Gorby told the paper. “The company is not following the guidelines. I spoke up and I got fired.”

Grice said Whitmer’s executive order had no connection to Gorby’s firing, but declined to elaborate.

“She’s been here a long time, but that’s not how we treat a longtime employee,” he told the outlet. “The conditions around her termination have nothing to do with the coronavirus crisis.”

Exemptions to Whitmer’s order include health care, law enforcement and grocery store workers — but Gorby says she doesn’t fall into any of those categories. Her duties, she told the paper, included ordering seasonal goods and other items customers might grab on their way to the register.

She told the paper she’d been arguing the week before the executive order that employees at the pharmacy’s headquarters — especially those with child care and health issues — should be allowed to work from home, according to the report.

But Grice argued that every employee is essential, according to Gorby.

Gorby said her boss further advised those headquarters and warehouse employees who are uncomfortable coming to work to apply for unemployment and resume their jobs once the crisis subsides.

“That’s untrue,” Grice told the paper. “But I’m not going to comment on that.”

Gorby told the paper she was offered a severance package of eight weeks pay — but the catch was a non-disclosure agreement that would keep her silent about her dismissal. She declined it.

“I knew it was hush money,” she said. “I’m not taking hush money.”

The termination letter also points to previous conflicts between Gorby and Grice, she told the outlet.

“Over the last couple of years, we’ve had our differing opinions,” it says. “Many times, I have appreciated your candor. At other times, it has eroded our relationship. Unfortunately, the actions we would have needed to take to repair and build trust have not been taken.”

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