Former Eatonville city worker suing town, says termination cost him heart transplant

A former Town of Eatonville employee is suing the city after being fired last year.

Abubakr 'Abu' Canady said he was terminated from his position as Eatonville Public Works Director last August. In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Canady and his attorney claim the termination came after he was granted time off to deal with a failing heart, and that the loss of his insurance benefits have cost him his place on the heart transplant list.

Canady said he started having heart problems in 2016 and was eventually diagnosed with congestive heart failure.

"I have absolutely no idea when this one is just going to stop,” said Canady in an interview with the News Station Thursday. “I need a heart.”

Canady said since his diagnosis he had to use several personal days off work to undergo procedures and treatments.

The lawsuit says last August, he took 3 days off for treatment that, Canady alleges, he was advised by human resources to take utilizing the benefits of the Family Medical Leave Act.  It was during that time that Canady said he got an email to either resign from his position or be terminated.

Canady’s attorney, Carlos Leach, said the Town of Eatonville may not qualify for the benefits of that act due to them having under 50 employees. However, Leach said Thursday that town representatives never-the-less advised Canady to take the time off under that.

"When an employer makes a representation to an employee that those benefits are available: they should not be retaliated against for exercising those rights,” said Leach.

Canady said since his termination, he was informed that his spot on the heart transplant list had become inactive due to the loss of benefits.

He said Thursday that the average cost he’s seeing for a heart transplant is $1.4 million, and he needs that insurance to survive.

"It's extremely frightening. I'm only 56. I have a lot of life to live,” said Canady.

Canady is suing for damages, but he and Leach said Thursday that they really just want his job and his benefits to be restored so that he can get the treatment he needs.

The News Station contacted Eatonville’s mayor on Thursday who advised he had not seen the lawsuit yet and could not comment.