Company unlawfully terminated Latino supervisor who complained about unequal treatment of Latino workers

CHICAGO, IL - Today, MALDEF filed suit, in federal court in the Northern District of Illinois, against Illinois nut processing company, John B Sanfilippo & Son, Inc. (aka Fisher Nuts), for violating the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and unlawfully terminating a Latino employee two days after he was diagnosed with cancer. During his tenure, the employee, a production supervisor, had been vocal about the unequal treatment of Latino workers by higher management. The suit seeks damages for the surviving spouse of the now deceased employee, Martin Palma Salcedo.

"It is not only disappointing, but unlawful, when an employer punishes an employee for the misfortune of being stricken by a serious condition," stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. "Latino workers are too often the targets of vindictive and unlawful employer conduct like that demonstrated here."

The FMLA entitles an employee suffering from serious health conditions, such as cancer, up to twelve work weeks of leave each year. Although Mr. Palma was diagnosed with lung cancer merely two days before he was fired, he had suffered noticeable symptoms of the disease months before his official diagnosis. Upon confirmation of his cancer, and after informing his employer that he would need time off for treatment, his employer, John B Sanfilippo & Son, Inc. terminated Mr. Palma without explanation, citing performance issues despite the fact he was in good standing for his entire tenure with the company.

After his termination, Mr. Palma filed a disability discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC found cause in his disability discrimination charge against his former employer, but Mr. Palma died from his condition on March 26, 2013, shortly after receiving notification.

"Mr. Palma's case presents an extreme example of an FMLA violation because he was fired and denied his rights under the law at a time when he needed those rights the most," said MALDEF's Midwest Regional Counsel, Alonzo Rivas.

MALDEF represents Mr. Palma's surviving spouse and seeks damages and lost compensation for the unlawful interference with her husband's rights under the FMLA.

Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation's leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the "Latino Legal Voice for Civil Rights in America" MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit:

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Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund