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Judge upholds employment discrimination suit for county worker

Accident victims may be unable to work for some time while they are recovering from their injuries. Employers have a responsibility to accommodate the needs of their employees while they are unable to work, and to treat them fairly if they return to their position. A federal judge has denied attempts by county officials in Colorado to dismiss an employment discrimination lawsuit filed by a man who was fired after an accident.

The man was employed as a fleet services manager by Pitkin County for over a year. He was in charge of vehicle and equipment maintenance. A bicycle accident in the summer of 2009 left him unable to work for a month while he recovered from his injuries and underwent facial reconstructive surgery. He was cleared to return to work by his physician one month after the accident occurred.

Despite a clean bill of health from his doctor, in November 2009, the employee was eventually fired for not being able to fulfill his job requirements; after four months of attempting to return to work full-time.

He has subsequently filed a lawsuit against several county officials, claiming that the dismissal was a case of wrongful termination. The suit further alleges that county officials violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act and the Civil Rights Act in their treatment of the man.

Despite being cleared for work by his physician, the employer ordered an additional medical evaluation in September 2009. The employee was told the county required that he submit to a neuro-psychological exam even though he showed no evidence of a skull fracture or traumatic brain injury.

The county continued to not allow him to work full-time and in fact cut his workable hours in half. The man says that he never requested his responsibilities and hours be reduced, and that officials went so far as to deny applications he made for other available positions.

According to the filing, the man was placed on leave after the accident, under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). During this time the county still issued him work assignment and even mandated that the employee participate in community service at a local senior center.

The man's attorney states that this is a "straight-forward" case of employment discrimination, and feels that the county has violated federal laws that exist to ensure disability entitlements and medical leave for injured employees.

Source: Aspen Daily News Online, "Employee fired after accident brings discrimination suit against PitCo," Andrew Travers, 27 June 2011

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