Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Disability Discrimination Case Results in $56,500 Verdict for Bipolar Employee

Bipolar Employee Prevails in Lawsuit

About a month ago, I wrote about an employee who has a disability discrimination case pending against Regions Bank.  The employee has bipolar disorder and unless a settlement is reached, there is a very good chance that this case will go to trial in the next month or so. See below discussion of  Muzyka v. Regions Bank.

Last week, news reports released a story about another bipolar employee who took his employer to court.  The employee was able to persuade the judge that his employer discriminated against him and recovered a verdict of $56,500.

Sean Reilly was diagnosed with bipolar disorder while he was in college.  Although treated for the condition, he had problems and dropped out of college.

Reilly then took a job as an assistant manager with Cottonwood Financial.  Cottonwood owns and operates pay day lending stores in a handful of states.  Reilly decided to stop taking his medication after gaining almost 100 pounds.   Afterwards, Reilly started feeling paranoid and believed that people were talking about him behind his back.  Afraid that others would spy on him, he threw out his cell phone.  Reilly eventually had a nervous breakdown.  He called in sick and his boss denied his request saying that someone needed to cover the store.  Reilly went to work and requested two weeks of leave, which also was denied.  Within a month, Cottonwood terminated Riley’s employment.

After a four day bench trial, Judge Edward F. Shea of U.S. District Court for the Eastern Washington ruled in Reilly's favor.  A bench trial is a trial before a judge without a jury.  Reilly’s attorney took a different approach because more often than not, employment law plaintiffs would rather have a jury trial.

Judge Shea found that Cottonwood’s ADA policies and practices were deficient. The judge also found that Cottonwood’s reasons for firing Reilly were a pretext – i.e., cover-up – for intentional discrimination.  Reilly’s attorney noted that this case is significant because the employer regarded and perceived him as disabled and incapable of doing his job.

Reilly, by the way, was able to return to school and earn his degree.

For questions on the Americans with Disabilities Act and other employment related matters, call Rich Bradford at (813) 413-2402.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Employment Law Violations Multiply for Texas Hospital

Hospital CEO says Fat Nurses Need Not Apply
I found the following article about a Texas hospital whose personnel policies will keep it in court for a very long time.  First, the hospital invited litigation from its Indian employees because the CEO wrote a memo stating:
I feel a sense of disgust but am more concerned with what this means to the future of the hospital as more of our Middle-Eastern-born physicians demand leadership roles and demand influence.
It will change the entire complexion of the hospital and create a level of fear among our employees.
I hope this is a case where the CEO is failing to listen to his HR people and legal team.  I hate to see this as a case where his staff members gave him the green light to institute such a poorly reasoned memo.  CEOs, you need to listen to your legal staff and HR department.
Now, the hospital CEO is trying to invite claims of disability discrimination or even gender discrimination because of his declaration of war on overweight nurses. The CEO actually banned job applicants from being overweight.   If his issue is the ability of the applicant to perform his/her duties, then an individualized inquiry is necessary.  If he is concerned about patient perception, then he is inviting many problems for the hospital.  For more details check out:  Fat Nurses Need Not Apply.