Dec 24

Suit Claims Sandvik Fired Swedish Man for Seeking Workers' Compensation

Posted on December 24, 2010 — by Tom Foley III

Dec. 24 — A Swedish man is suing his old employer in Clarks Summit, claiming the company fired him after he was injured in a car accident, then notified the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm to have him sent back to Sweden.

The suit, filed by Scranton lawyers Michael J. Foley and Paul Jennings, claims Sandvik Materials Technology wanted Johan Alpensjo out of the country to “sever his eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits …”

“Sandvik was under the impression that if Mr. Alpensjo left the U.S. it would limit their workers’ compensation liability,” the suit states.

The suit refers to a decision by Alan R. Harris, a workers’ compensation judge, who denied Sandvik’s attempts to have Mr. Alpensjo’s benefits suspended. The suit states Judge Harris found that Sandvik had “fired its injured employee, a Swedish national, without cause and then informed the American Embassy in Stockholm and Customs Enforcement that he was living illegally in the U.S. while unemployed.”

Mr. Alpensjo was fired March 3, 2009, by Sandvik following an accident Dec. 11, 2008, while driving to a high-level meeting at Kanthal Heating Systems in Bethel, Conn., where he was scheduled to make a “concept presentation,” the suit states.

Mr. Alpensjo suffered severe injuries to his right eye and spine, the suit states.

Before the accident, Mr. Alpensjo was considered a “keeper,” according to an e-mail dated May 22, 2008, from his supervisor. The e-mail, which calls Mr. Alpensjo a “high achiever,” is referred to in the suit.

“He has come up to the top in my department and exemplified a high level of leadership, initiative and ability to collaborate on a ‘global’ perspective with key people in Sandvik — good for our local facility,” the e-mail said, according to the suit.

Things began to change after the accident, the suit states. The suit claims Mr. Alpensjo was fired in retaliation for exercising his rights to file a workers’ compensation claim. “According to Human Resources records, the termination was listed as for-cause for poor performance despite the acknowledged fact that there were no adverse issues documents prior to the Dec. 11, 2008, work injury,” the suit states.

Three weeks later, Sandvik’s human resources director wrote a letter to the U.S. Embassy in Stockholm and to Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Another letter was sent in April to the embassy and to ICE, saying Mr. Alpensjo “continues to remain in the U.S., despite regulations that require his departure. To support your efforts to repatriate him, he is currently residing at 107 Second St., Dalton,” a letter dated April 22, 2009, said.

©2010, The Times-Tribune, Scranton, PA

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