Being a hospital maintenance worker is grueling. Just ask Darrell Allen, who worked for Atrium Medical Center. His job was so taxing that he created a secret break-room for himself in one of the hospital’s air handling rooms. The break-room included a desk and chair; a refrigerator that contained raw eggs, pickles, orange juice, milk, bread, lunch meat, peanut butter, pistachio nuts, cooking oil, and cooking spray; a toaster; a griddle; a hot plate; and a skillet. When Atrium discovered the secret hiding place, Mr. Allen defended himself by explaining that he always removed his stuff before state hospital inspections. But Atrium had a rule against cooking in areas other than the kitchen (they really needed a “rule” for that?), and also banned food in any mechanical rooms. Add to this the fact that Mr. Allen was exercising his gourmet talents in a hospital air handling room, jeopardizing patient and worker safety, and you have all the ingredients for a sad end to Mr. Allen’s tale. He was fired. He sued for disability discrimination as a former heart attack victim and for age discrimination. The court burnt Mr. Allen’s claims to a crisp, awarding summary judgment to the hospital. Allen v. Atrium Med. Center, Case No. 1:13-CV-811 (S.D. Ohio April 14, 2015).
The lesson from this bizarre tale? Secret forts are super keen when you’re 6 years old and using an old blanket between dining room chairs. Not so much when you’re 60 and cooking in a hospital air handling room.