A recent employment discrimination case sheds light on the toll disability discrimination can take on people who already struggle with debilitating lifelong illnesses.
The plaintiff in the Brown v. Kelly Servs., Inc. case in New Jersey was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) about a year after a promotion at her employer, an employment services agency. That’s when her troubles began – though Brown needed special furniture, such as an ergonomically correct workstation, and revised work responsibilities to allow her to continue working, her employer refused to provide them. In addition, other co-workers without disabilities who asked for furniture were given the furniture without question. The agency that employed Brown even gave her more face-to-face sales calls to complete, which impacted her ability to work at all.
Things got worse in 2003, when Brown was fired. Her problems with her employer weren’t done yet – though she managed to find temporary work, it paid less than her former $70,000-a-year position and the stress from the firing made her MS symptoms worse. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Brown was forced to rely on social security benefits, which capped her already lower income, and sell her long-time home. That’s when Brown decided to fight back. She filed a lawsuit claiming employer discrimination and wrongful termination.
The foundation of Brown’s case was the employer’s alleged refusal to accommodate her MS and her wrongful termination. However, the defendants vigorously denied any wrongdoing. They claimed that she was let go because she performed her job badly. A jury thought otherwise: they awarded Brown a verdict of over $800,000 and found the employer guilty of disability discrimination.
In this case, discrimination didn’t just make Brown’s work difficult – it cost her job, her livelihood, even her home. Brown’s victory is an inspiration to victims of disability and other discrimination, who can see from her case that fighting back does pay off when you have an experienced legal team.