Community College Employee Allowed To Proceed With Wrongful Termination Claim Under The ADA In Blackburn v. Trustees

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects qualified individuals against several different types of discrimination based on a “disability.” A qualified individual with a disability includes those individuals with any medical, physiological, or psychiatric condition that substantially limits a major life activity. Further, the ADA protects against perceived disabilities. This includes disability discrimination based on stereotypes and baseless concerns about an individual’s condition or medical history. Under these circumstances, it is a violation of federal discrimination laws to take adverse employment actions or retaliate against you for complaining about disability discrimination. It also requires your employer take reasonable steps to accommodate your disability.

In a recent case, Blackburn v. Trustees of Guilford Technical Cmty. Coll., a North Carolina Court reviewed whether a Community College violated the ADA when it refused to allow a house keeper – Gail Blackburn – to return to work. Blackburn had sustained workplace injuries and was placed on work place restrictions prohibiting her from lifting more than 20 pounds, sitting of standing for a prolonged period of time and repetitively bending, stooping or squatting. When she received a physician’s release two months later, the Community College failed to give her her job back, based on their perception that she was disabled and could not perform her job.

Blackburn sued the Community College, and the College tried to defend itself by claiming it was immune from liability as an “arm of the state,” and the Constitution generally prohibits lawsuits against states. However, North Carolina specifically waived sovereign immunity for lawsuits filed by “state employees” and as a result, Blackburn was allowed to proceed with her job discrimination claim.

Many times, whether a valid claim for a violation of employment discrimination laws exist depends on an interpretation of both state and federal laws. Consulting with a knowledgeable Georgia employment discrimination attorney is important to assess your claim and determine your right to compensation.

If you believe you have been subjected to employment discrimination such as disability discrimination or have questions regarding employment laws, contact the dedicated Atlanta disability discrimination lawyers at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP for a confidential case evaluation.