Angela Castillo Says South Miami Hospital Fired Her For Grieving Her Dead Brother

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There are bosses, and then there are bad bosses. Orlando Valdez would seem to fall into the second category, at least according to Angela Castillo. When Castillo, a South Miami Hospital CAT scan technician, found out that her brother had unexpectedly died last month, she says she told Valdez that she couldn't come in to work for a few days and that he agreed. But when she called a week after the funeral, she says she discovered that she'd been fired for "job abandonment."

"It seems cruel," Castillo says. "He thought I was going to call him within two or three days but death doesn't work that way... They really just wanted to get rid of me because it's saving them a paycheck."

Valdez, though, says the decision wasn't his. "I just followed our policies," claims the South Miami Hospital manager. "Under normal policy, employees have up to three days for bereavement. After that, they have to call and let us know when they'll be back. She never called back."

But Castillo says she and Valdez spoke repeatedly in the week after she learned of her brother's sudden death in Arizona.

Castillo was trying to sleep ahead of working the night shift when her mother called, distraught. Castillo's 36-year-old brother Charles had died of a pulmonary embolism and heart attack after coming down with pneumonia. The family didn't even know that he was sick.

When Castillo phoned Valdez to let him know that she wouldn't make it in that night, he told her that the story sounded "strange" but agreed to give her the night off.

But Valdez called the very next day, Castillo claims, even as the family was still trying to find out how Charles had died.

"Come to work," Valdez said.

"Orlando, my brother just died," Castillo recalls saying. "My mother isn't well. She keeps passing out and almost had to be hospitalized. I can't come to work for a couple of days."

"He wasn't very sympathetic," she says.

Castillo was surprised when Valdez showed up at her brother's funeral on Saturday and said his condolences. But then he started asking her when she was going to come back to work.

She says she told her boss that she had two weeks of paid time off and that if she needed to, she could use them. Valdez agreed, Castillo claims.

But when she called him later that week to ask when she could come back to work, Valdez told her he couldn't talk about it and transferred her to the hospital's Human Resources Department. Someone she didn't know told Castillo that she was fired two days earlier for "job abandonment."

"I was in disbelief," she says. "I had been working there for nine years. How could I get fired when my supervisor knew what was going on?"

When she called Valdez, he told her the same thing he told Riptide: that he was just following the rules. He denies that he and Castillo discussed using her paid time off. "It was a very sad situation," Valdez adds. "But she never called back."

When Riptide rang South Miami Hospital's HR department for explanation, we were put on hold. Then a spokeswoman hung up on us.

"This company has high ethical standards," Valdez says. "As a matter of fact, it's very hard to get fired from this company."

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes. Follow this journalist on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.

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