Tony Robbins, the life coach and motivational speaker, discriminated against one of her employees by refusing to give her the accommodations she needed to work from home after contracting a debilitating case of Covid-19 in the spring, according to a complaint filed Wednesday.
The lawsuit also accuses Mr Robbins of falsely claiming to have helped the employee recover by asking a doctor friend of her to intervene in her care after she was placed on a ventilator in a medically induced coma.
The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, accuses Mr. Robbins; his company, Robbins Research International; and his wife, Bonnie P. Robbins, known as Sage, for violating several disability laws, including the United States Disability Act, which requires reasonable accommodation for people with disabilities.
The employee, Despina Kosta, worked for Mr. Robbins for 18 years – the first nine in Europe and the last nine in the United States, where she had a job in New York as a sales manager or ‘results specialist. personal ”. She was one of the company’s top-rated sales employees, according to the lawsuit.
At the start of the pandemic, the lawsuit claims, Mr Robbins downplayed the severity of the coronavirus and pushed his team to continue selling events in person. Ms Kosta claims she expressed concerns about the approach but was ignored.
In April, Ms Kosta, 52, developed a high fever and was diagnosed with Covid-19. She was placed in a medically induced coma from April 12 to May 1 while being treated first at NewYork-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital and then at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital / Weill Cornell Medical Center, according to the lawsuit and Ms. Kosta. .
Afterwards, Ms Kosta struggled to recover, finding it difficult to walk or even hold a cell phone, she said.
Ms Kosta attempted to return to work on July 1 and asked her supervisor and a human resources manager if she could work ‘a few hours’ a day to recuperate and regain her strength, she said in an interview Wednesday evening. “They said no to that,” she said.
Since July, Ms Kosta has said that she can no longer access her work email or the company database, where information about the clients she serves is stored. Without this access, she could not work, she said. Ms. Kosta said she earns around $ 250,000 per year.
J. Christopher Albanese, a lawyer representing Ms Kosta, said the company had not fired her but the lockout had prevented her from doing her job.
Jennifer Connelly, a spokesperson for Mr. Robbins, said the trial allegations were “ludicrous and baseless”.
She said Ms Kosta “remains a current employee” and the company has “provided all necessary accommodations” and “continues to pay the full cost of her medical insurance, even though her legal obligation to do so ended in June.”
Ms Kosta also said that remarks Mr Robbins made on a podcast caused him distress.
In the podcast, recorded in May, Mr. Robbins described an employee who had a 102-degree cough and fever and “was very scared.”
“And so she went to the hospital, and then out of fear she felt short of breath, a little hyperventilated, so they immediately put her on a ventilator,” he said.
Mr Robbins said after finding out the employee had been placed in a coma, he called a doctor friend who knew people at the hospital. He said he asked his friend to call the hospital and the friend eventually went to the night doctor, who reduced the pressure on the ventilator.
“As a result, four or five days later she opened her eyes,” Mr Robbins said, saying the episode showed the fans, at least with too much pressure, seemed to “do damage”.
In July, Ms Kosta said she was contacted directly by a client in Poland who said he listened to Mr Robbins’ podcast and understood that Mr Robbins had described Ms Kosta.
Ms Kosta listened to the podcast and said on Wednesday evening that Mr Robbins’ claims that he interfered with his treatment were entirely false. She said she was “ashamed” because he had described her as “a hysterical, weak woman”.
The comments were not the first time Mr. Robbins’ remarks about a woman had drawn attention. In April 2018, Mr Robbins apologized for saying that women were using the #MeToo movement “to try to get meaning and certainty by attacking and destroying someone else.”
Ms Connelly, Mr Robbins’ spokesperson, said the organization had expressed concern about Ms Kosta’s state of health. “When we were informed that Ms Kosta had contracted Covid-19 and had been hospitalized, Mr Robbins and his organization inquired with compassion and support for her,” she said.
She added: “Any suggestion by Ms. Kosta that RRI acted unprofessionally or did not comply with applicable laws, in her circumstances or in the proper conduct of her business, is patently false.”