A federal court denied Denver’s motion to dismiss a civil rights lawsuit against the city of a former employee with cerebral palsy who claims she experienced discrimination and retaliation.
The decision was a procedural victory for Kristen Guadiana, who is seeking salary reimbursement and other financial compensation after being fired from the Denver Department of Human Services as an authorization technician.
Charlotte N. Sweeney, one of the attorneys representing Guadiana in the Colorado Federal District Court, is currently President Joe Biden’s nominee for judge in that court. The workplace discrimination attorney was one of three candidates recommended to Biden by the state’s U.S. Senators and is awaiting a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Guadiana described in her federal complaint that the city hired her in May 2015 and that she was responsible for determining whether people were eligible for Medicaid help.
Employees in her position were required to fill out a certain number of applications per day, but Guadiana’s cerebral palsy precluded the use of her left hand for typing. Allegedly, her supervisor and colleagues noticed that she was a quick typist despite having just one hand.
Six months after she was hired, Guadiana’s supervisor reportedly told her that her number was “a little low” and that the city would extend her probationary period. The department then investigated ways to accommodate Guadiana under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Federal law of 1990 requires employers to provide people with disabilities with reasonable accommodation to enable them to perform the essential functions of their position. According to the Job Accommodation Network, its survey of employers found that most workplace accommodations are free to implement and the average spend for those who incurred a one-off cost was $ 500.
According to reports, the city of Guadiana proposed a one-handed keyboard, speech recognition software or a “short” keyboard with a number pad. While Guadiana was reportedly on medical leave in early 2016, the short keyboard arrived but was never installed because it was incompatible with her computer. The department also completed the interactive process of finding appropriate accommodation for Guadiana.
Guadiana’s manager then announced that she was not achieving her goals and assigned her to a call center in March. The city announced Guadiana on April 21, 2016. Although she finally got a compatible keyboard shortcut, Guadiana had access to it just a week before she was released.
“The defendant discriminated against the plaintiff because of her disability by, among other things, … terminating the plaintiff without first checking whether the alleged performance problems of the plaintiff improved after using her approved accommodation; failure to offer the applicant additional reasonable accommodation, including a transfer to any vacant position for which she was qualified; and otherwise fail to participate in the interactive process in good faith, ”Guadiana alleged in her lawsuit.
The city ordered the federal court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that the Department of Human Services was in fact acting as part of the state of Colorado. Therefore he was entitled to immunity.
But in an August 10 order, US Judge Judge Scott T. Varholak disagreed with this line of thinking. Since Guadiana said she was hired by the city, followed city guidelines and involved the city’s human resources department and law firm in her ADA accommodation, Varholak noted that immunity was not guaranteed.
Ariel B. DeFazio, an attorney who represents Guadiana with Sweeney, said she was satisfied with the order, “not only because it means that Ms. Guadiana’s case can go to business, but also because it sets a precedent that is what future city employees can rely on to pursue their own claims for discrimination and retaliation based on disabilities. “
The case is Guadiana versus Denver.