Media Giant Fired Employee Who Returned From Leave for Bipolar Disorder, Federal Agency Charged
PHOENIX -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has settled a disability discrimination lawsuit against Gannett Company, Inc. and Gannett Media Technologies, Inc. (GMTI) charging the companies with firing an employee because she had bipolar disorder.
According to the EEOC's suit, EEOC v. Gannett Company, Inc. and Gannett Media Technologies, Inc., CV 11-00675-PHX-DKD, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix, Gannett hired Robin Parker-Garcia in its Tempe, Ariz., facility as an application support analyst. After Parker-Garcia returned from a medical leave of absence because of her bipolar condition, the Gannett companies unlawfully discharged her, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The suit further charged that during her employment, Parker-Garcia exceeded expectations and was up for a promotion before she went on the medical leave.
In settling the lawsuit, Gannett agreed to pay Ms. Parker-Garcia $49,900 as compensatory damages and back pay. The consent decree-in effect for two years after its entry--also provides that the companies will provide appropriate training about disability discrimination to all of their human resources, supervisory, and managerial employees in three states. A notice is also required to be posted. Gannett is required to review and modify its policies to comply with the ADA.
"The ADA and its recent amendments have made clear that many mental disabilities are protected by federal law," said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Many disabled persons, including those with bipolar disorder, are qualified, ready and willing to work -- all they need is an equal opportunity."
Rayford O. Irvin, district director of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, added, "It is difficult enough for a person to deal with a disability. That difficulty can only be exacerbated when an employer terminates a person because of that disability. The ADA was enacted in part to eliminate discrimination based on stereotypes and fear. We will continue to vigorously pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts, and will continue to fight for disabled individuals who are ready, willing, and able to work in this tough economy."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.