Federal Court Awards $1.8 million to Employee Wrongfully Terminated by Snohomish County PUD for her Disability

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Federal District Court Judge John C. Coughenour today ordered the Snohomish County PUD to pay $1.8 million to a former customer service representative, after it wrongfully terminated her for perceived side effects from prescription medications for her chronic migraine headaches.

Coughenour said the PUD failed to accommodate Cynthia Stewart’s disability, and discriminated against her because of it, writing the PUD should have: “treated her as an employee with a medical condition, rather than a drug abuser.”

Ms. Stewart suffered debilitating migraine headaches the entire 23 years she worked as a customer services representative for the PUD.  In 2013, PUD supervisors began expressing frustration at Ms. Stewart’s need for time off to receive treatment for her migraines.  In October 2014, a supervisor claimed that Ms. Stewart showed signs of impairment after she returned from her doctor’s office where she received a shot of pain medication.  Even though the PUD knew any side-effects were a direct result of the medication prescribed for her disability, it forced Ms. Stewart to sign a last-chance agreement as a condition of her returning to work – effectively threatening to fire Ms. Stewart if it ever again suspected she suffered such side effects.  In April 2015, the PUD again suspected Ms. Stewart of being impaired after a doctor’s visit, and terminated her employment.  “The PUD treated Ms. Stewart like a drug addict and criminal, rather than accommodate her disability as the law requires,” said Shaeffer.

Washington law requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, and prohibits employers from taking disciplinary actions against employees for their disabilities, including disability-related conduct or medication side effects.

“This is a victory for all Washington employees who suffer from a disability.  Employees should be able to seek appropriate medical treatment without fear of losing their jobs,” said Joe Shaeffer, one of Ms. Stewart’s attorneys.

The damages award included compensation for lost wages, lost pension, and emotional distress.  The Court also directed the parties to apply for an award of attorney’s fees and costs, as well as an award to compensate Ms. Stewart for adverse tax consequences of the award.

Ms. Stewart was represented by Joe Shaeffer, Katie Chamberlain, and Sam Kramer of MacDonald Hoague & Bayless.

Trial Ordered In Police SWAT Team Killing Of Unarmed Man

A federal judge has ordered a trial of the civil rights claims brought by the family of Leonard Thomas, an African American man killed by a SWAT team at his home in Fife, Washington, in 2013. The Thomas family is represented by MHB lawyers Tim Ford, David Whedbee and Tiffany Cartwright.  The trial is set to begin June 19, in federal court in Seattle. Below are links that provide more details.

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/trial-begins-in-swat-sniper-killing-of-unarmed-black-man-in-fife/

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/racial-bias-video-wont-be-shown-to-jury-weighing-police-shooting-of-black-man-in-fife/

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/family-military-tactics-by-cops-led-to-killing/

http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/crime/judge-jury-should-decide-whether-police-were-overzealous-in-fatal-shooting-of-fife-man/

http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/article154926244.html

 

Class Action Lawsuit for Wage Violations by Jackson Hewitt

Beginning in the 2013 tax season (approximately January 2014 through April 2014) and continuing to the present, Jackson Hewitt has run promotions offering $50-100 gift cards for qualifying customers who hired Jackson Hewitt to complete their tax returns. MacDonald Hoague & Bayless is suing Jackson Hewitt for deducting the value of these gift cards from individual tax preparers’ revenues, lowering their earned commissions. In doing so, Jackson Hewitt violated the tax preparers’ commission contract and Washington’s wage laws.

If you worked as a tax preparer during anytime from January 2013 to the present, we would like to hear about your experience. You may be entitled to recover lost compensation from Jackson Hewitt. Please email attorney Jesse Wing at jessew@mhb.com, or call him at (206) 622-1604.

MHB Wins Jury Verdict for Woman Fired Because of Her Breast Cancer

On Thursday, April 20, 2017, a federal court jury found Generations Healthcare Network at Oakton Pavillion, LLC, a Des Plaines nursing home, liable for firing its former Director of Nursing because she had breast cancer.  The jury awarded $400,000 in damages for  emotional injuries, one of the largest such awards in Illinois under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Plaintiff alleged that when Generations found out she had cancer in June of 2014, it immediately began a hunt for her replacement.  Generations purchased the nursing facility on September 1, 2014 and just 10 days later, the Plaintiff was fired. Immediately after the Plaintiff was fired the administrator of the facility, told the staff that the Director of Nursing was let go because of her health.

A jury of seven deliberated four hours before finding that Generations actions violate both federal and state laws protecting people from being discriminated against because of a disability such as cancer.

One of the attorneys for the Plaintiff, Jeffrey Taren, with MacDonald Hoague & Bayless stated: “This case shows that cancer survivors continue to face discrimination in the workplace.  This verdict is proof that women like the Plaintiff, who stand up for their rights, can obtain justice.”

 

Grays Harbor County Policy of Putting Kids in Solitary Confinement

David Whedbee of MHB is cooperating as counsel with ACLU of Washington to challenge the unconstitutional use of solitary confinement on juveniles in Grays Harbor County. See the attached ACLU Press Release: Grays Harbor Solitary Confinement and an article written about the suit in The Daily World: http://www.thedailyworld.com/news/county-sued-over-allegations-of-solitary-confinement-at-juvenile-facility/.