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City of Huntington Beach Sued by Deaf Library Clerk for Wrongful Termination and Discrimination

November 19, 2011

In a recent Costa Mesa employment lawyers blog, our attorneys discussed the federal protections under Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA)--where employers are required to reasonably accommodate the disability of a qualified job applicant or worker, unless the individual's disability causes the employer's business operations suffer an undue hardship.

In related news, this week a former employee of the Huntington Beach City Library, who is deaf, is suing the city after she claims she was wrongfully fired from her job as a library clerk--because of her disability.

According to the lawsuit, Merrie Sager, 32, filed a disability discrimination complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (FEHC) on March 8, stating that the Huntington Beach Library management team was no longer willing to reasonably accommodate her disabilities, and that her job termination was a result of retaliation--as she had repeatedly filed complaints about the ongoing lack of reasonable accommodation.

The Orange County Register reports that when Sager was first employed in 1978 at the library, she fully disclosed her disabilities to the city library, as well as her need for written instructions on work assignments, and the assistance of a sign language interpreter to help her communicate at staff meetings.

The lawsuit claims that Ron Hayden, the library manager throughout her many years of employment, made sure that Sager received reasonable accommodations in her job requirements of checking in books and placing them back on the library shelves.

Hayden reportedly retired from his position of manager in 2009, and the new manager was, according to the lawsuit, less familiar with Sager's needs. When Sager would express her need for an interpreter during staff meetings, as well as the need for written communication, she claimed that her accommodation requests were frequently met with accusations of misconduct and job performance deficiency.

On August 10, 2010, a co-worker of Sager's accused her of violence, claiming that she threw a library book, yelled, and made a hand gesture that was inappropriate. Sager claimed in her lawsuit that the alleged incident was an emotional response that came from not being permitted to help a library volunteer with a job assignment, a duty that she had done for years.

Later that month, on August 30, 2010, Sager was fired from her job, after being accused of violating the city's workplace violence policy, and posing a direct threat to herself and to others by displaying violence in the workplace.

Sager submitted a letter of resignation in September of 2010, in an effort to avoid termination, writing that her disabilities do not affect her library work, and that for 32 years she was discriminated against because of her disabilities, as she was not allowed to talk to any people in the library--because she was told that she might scare them.

The city Huntington Beach reportedly stated over 35 reasons why the city is not responsible for Sager's firing--citing violence in the workplace, and that Sager did not go through the correct channels to report the alleged workplace harassment or discrimination.

Deaf library clerk sues H.B. alleging wrongful termination, The Orange County Register, November 17, 2011

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC)

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, (EEOC)

Facts About the Americans with Disabilities Act

Related Blog Posts:

Employee Disabilities and Reasonable Accommodations Under the ADA , California Employment Lawyers Blog, November 14, 2011

EEOC Disability Discrimination Protection under the ADA, California Employment Lawyers Blog, November 10, 2011

California's Comfort Suites Settles Disability Discrimination Lawsuit for $132,500, California Employment Lawyers Blog, November 8, 2011

EEOC Sues Walgreens for Disability Discrimination, California Employment Lawyers Blog, September 19, 2011

Starbucks Agrees to Pay $75K in Dwarfism and Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Settlement, California Employment Lawyers Blog, August 23, 2011

Verizon's Class Action Disability Discrimination Lawsuit Settles for $20 Million, California Employment Lawyers Blog, July 11, 2011

AutoZone to Pay $600K for Disability Discrimination and Failure to Accommodate, California Employment Lawyers Blog, June 10, 2011