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Former Indianapolis city worker given go ahead on discrimination suit

The former project manager of unsafe buildings/nuisance abatement at Indianapolis' Department of Metropolitan Development has found herself in a particularly grueling legal battle for the past few years. But with an overwhelmingly positive ruling this month from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on her side, it appears now that she may finally have her disability discrimination case heard for what it is.

When the former city worker was first hired in May 2007, she was required to do a significant amount of field work, inspecting buildings and sites in the area to determine whether they required demolition or not. When she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in March 2008, however, she could no longer do the required fieldwork anymore, per her doctor's request.

At first, she was given an almost entirely desk-bound job; but when she was given a new supervisor in January 2009, she says that "things quickly went downhill." According to her complaint, the main problem was a demolition incident that she had not ordered but had still cost the city hundreds of dollars in overtime for the workers involved in the project. The incident eventually led to her being disciplined in May 2009, finally ending in her termination one month later.

The former city worker claims that she was being discriminated against for her disability and that her termination was in retaliation for her constant requests for accommodation. Although her initial lawsuit appears to have been dismissed by a lower court, a recent decision made by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will allow her case to be heard once more by a future court. As the three-judge panel explained in their ruling, there appeared to be a considerable link between the former city worker's request for reasonable accommodation and her subsequent termination. In the eyes of the court, the discipline she endured in connection with the building's demolition "played a significant part in her termination" and that existing evidence seems to suggest that this discipline may have been motivated by hostility towards her disability.

Though the Court of Appeals has allowed for her discrimination case to move forward, they have upheld the lower court's dismissal of her reasonable accommodation claims.

Though her case will be heard, it does not appear to have been scheduled for a future date at this time.

Source: Business Insurance, "Fired employee with MS can pursue discrimination, retaliation claims," Judy Greenwald, April 9, 2013

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