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Tampa employee fired and then reinstated sues city for more compensation

in The Bay and the 'Burg by

A Tampa Parks and Rec employee who was fired and then later brought back on board on appeal is suing the city, alleging the back pay she was awarded isn’t enough.

Queen Matthews was fired from her job with Tampa’s Parks and Recreation Department after she failed to report to work in October of 2013. Matthews had won a $1,000 shopping spree at a Tampa Sweetbay with Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings.

Matthews had requested the day off, but was told too many people were out that day and she would need to come in at 6 p.m. to close one of the city’s rec centers. Matthews agreed because it would allow her to still participate in the shopping spree.

However, the day before her scheduled shopping spree Matthews fell ill, reportedly due to fumes from floor wax while at work. Her illness landed her in the emergency room where a doctor told her not to return to work for three days.

Because the shopping spree involved a celebrity baseball player Matthews’ spree was shown on television and printed in news reports. Matthews collected most of the groceries not for herself, but rather kids and families at Rec Centers where she worked.

Matthews’ employers did not take kindly to her missing work while sick and then being scene sprinting through grocery aisles cheering and shouting. They fired her for falsifying leave documents.

However, on appeal Matthews was given her job back and awarded back pay minus any compensation she received after being fired.

According to documents filed in Hillsborough County Court, Matthews is seeking additional compensation for both compensatory and punitive damages for things like pain and suffering, emotional distress and legal fees.

According to Matthews she had worked for the City of Tampa for 25 years at the time she was fired. Her employment was reinstated after the city’s Civil Service Board determined the city had not presented enough evidence to prove Matthews had falsified paperwork.

This isn’t Matthews’ first experience with lawsuits. She’s filed lawsuits in 2013, 2012, 2005, 1996 and 1988 against Citizens Property Insurance, a nail salon, and the Tampa Department of Housing and Community Development. One of the suits was for auto negligence and another was a paternity claim.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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