Federal Agency Says Media Giant Fired a High Performer Because of Mental Disability
PHOENIX -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Gannett Company, Inc. and Gannett Media Technologies, Inc. charging the companies with firing an employee because she had a disability.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Ms. Parker-Garcia worked in Gannett’s Tempe, Ariz., facility as an application support analyst. After Parker-Garcia returned from a medical leave of absence because of a mental disability, the Gannett companies unlawfully discharged her, in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The suit further alleges that during her employment, Parker-Garcia exceeded expectations and was up for a promotion when she went on the medical leave.
Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the ADA , which prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions and privileges of employment. The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Gannett Company, Inc. and Gannett Media Technologies, Inc., Case No. (CV 11-00675-PHX-DKD) in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency is seeking monetary relief including back pay with prejudgment interest, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. The agency is also seeking an injunction prohibiting future discrimination and any other curative relief to prevent the Gannett companies from engaging in any further discriminatory practices.
“Individuals with disabilities, including mental disabilities, are an underutilized resource that employers should utilize,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “Many disabled persons are qualified, ready and willing to work -- all they need is an equal opportunity. Employers must remember that disability does not mean inability. Cases such as these are important to society because they confirm that workers who want to work, but are prevented from doing so by employers because of a real or perceived disability, are protected by the law.”
Rayford O. Irvin, district director of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, added, “We will continue to vigorously pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts, including discrimination against people who suffer from mental disabilities. The ADA was enacted in part to eliminate discrimination based on stereotypes and fear. We will actively pursue cases where this type of discrimination is reasonably believed to exist. ”
According to company information, the McLean, Va.-based Gannett Companies’ holdings include 82 U.S. daily newspapers, including USA Today, reaching 11.6 million readers every weekday and 12 million readers every Sunday. Gannett’s 23 TV stations reach 21 million households, covering 18.2 percent of the U.S. population.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.