Tuesday, July 15, 2008

An educator has won a case against her employee for demoting her based on a perceived disability

Here is an excerpt from the story in the Valley Courier (Alamosa, CO).

DENVER — In an unusual case in U.S. District Court on Thursday, a jury found in favor of Alamosa educator Candy Wilson who claimed her employer, the Alamosa school district, had downgraded her from associate Alamosa High School principal to classroom teacher based on a perceived disability.

Wilson contended that Alamosa Superintendent Henry Herrera demoted her because he believed she had a disabling condition related to severe anxiety attacks. John Culver, an attorney representing Wilson, said on Friday that although his client is not disabled she was discriminated against as if she were. He said he has never handled a case quite like this before.

Culver said the Americans with Disabilities Act prevents discrimination against people with disabilities. “Candy did not have a disability but was suffering pretty severe anxiety attacks,” Culver explained. He said the school superintendent jumped to the conclusion that Wilson had a serious anxiety disorder and downgraded her from associate principal. “She was discriminated against because the district believed she was disabled even though she was not actually,” Culver said.

The jury agreed with Wilson that if a person is discriminated against because of a perceived disability - even if the person is not disabled - it is as illegal as if the person suffers from a disabling condition.

The seven-person jury on Thursday awarded Wilson $240,000 in emotional
distress damages.