Employee sues GDOE on claims of ADA violationsWritten by Janela Carrera
Guam - A Guam Department of Education employee is suing the department on allegations of civil rights violation.
Cynthia Johnson is accusing Superintendent Jon Fernandez and Employee Management Relations Officer Robert Koss of discriminating against her because of her disability.
Johnson has been with the Guam Department of Education for over 24 years and served as a school health counselor.
In her lawsuit, she explains that she had back surgery in 2012 and her doctor recommended that GDOE provide her with reasonable work accommodations which included not standing for long hours or sitting for long periods.
After her surgery, Johnson says she was placed at George Washington High School and although reasonable accommodations weren’t entirely provided for her, she pushed through and even received and outstanding evaluation at the end of the school year. Johnson said she agreed to the transfer because the school was only 15 minutes away from where she lived which meant that she didn’t have to sit for long periods during the car ride to school.
The following school year, Johnson said that she received a letter from Fernandez reassigning her to Adacao Elementary School while demoting her position and pay to be able to accommodate her disability. However, Johnson said she had submitted proof that her doctor cleared her to continue to work as a health counselor.
A few days later, Johnson explained that Fernandez canceled her demotion and instead sent her back to work as a health counselor but this time she was being assigned to Inarajan Middle School.
Johnson argued that the reassignment was not a reasonable accommodation since the middle school was an hour away from where she lived. In court papers, Johnson pointed out that there were at least 21 other schools within reasonable distance from her home that she could be transferred to but as a form of discrimination, GDOE sent her to Inarajan Middle because of disability.
She said that Koss even told her that she could simply pull over every 10 minutes to take a break during her hour-long commute.
Johnson’s attorney, Josh Walsh, however, argued that “having her pull over to get out her car to stand at least six times to get to work and home is not a reasonable accommodation.”
Johnson also said that Koss continued to harass her, at one point sending her an email that said “only the president of the US and Michael Jackson have a medical practitioner at their side at all times.”
Johnson does not a specify an amount she is seeking in damages. You can read her lawsuit by clicking on the file below.