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Autism Speaks Sued for Discriminatory Treatment Based on Disability

Posted Jul 01 2012 12:00am

Autism speaks backward Note: Below is a legal complaint filed by Simone Greggs against Autism Speaks.

"...Over the course of two months, Plaintiff was given five different interviews with various officials of the Defendant and was finally told that they wanted to hire her for employment and was given an acceptance letter.  Plaintiff then told Defendants that her son is Autistic and attends a special school, and on Wednesdays the school lets out early so she would like to be able to come into the office early that day so that she could leave early and get home in time for her son.  Defendants told her that it would not be possible to do so.  Plaintiff then made other arrangements and was able to retain a babysitter for her son for that day.  Defendants then rescinded the employment offer.  When Plaintiff asked why, Defendants wouldn’t tell her and then blurred out a derogatory remark."

You can read the complaint in pdf format HERE .

TO THIS HONORABLE COURT, ALL PARTIES AND THEIR ATTORNEYS OF RECORD HEREIN:

            COMES NOW, Plaintiff Simone Greggs, as and for her complaint in this action against Defendant Autism Speaks hereby alleges as follows:

PRELIMINARY STATEMENT

  1. Plaintiff Simone Greggs is a citizen of the United States and a resident of Prince George’s County, Maryland.  She has claims of discriminatory treatment and breach of contract as a result of conduct by the Defendant that interferes with her right to be employed based on a disability. 

NATURE OF THE CLAIMS

  1. This is an action for declaratory, injunctive and equitable relief, as well as monetary damages, to redress Defendant's unlawful employment practices and retaliation against Plaintiff, including Defendant's unlawful discrimination and retaliation against Plaintiff because of her child’s disabilities, and because of her repeated complaints about such unlawful discrimination and retaliation, in violation of Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1981 ("Section 1981"); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. ("Title [*2]  VII"); and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 et seq. ("ADA").
  2. Over the course of two months, Plaintiff was given five different interviews with various officials of the Defendant and was finally told that they wanted to hire her for employment and was given an acceptance letter.  Plaintiff then told Defendants that her son is Autistic and attends a special school, and on Wednesdays the school lets out early so she would like to be able to come into the office early that day so that she could leave early and get home in time for her son.  Defendants told her that it would not be possible to do so.  Plaintiff then made other arrangements and was able to retain a babysitter for her son for that day.  Defendants then rescinded the employment offer.  When Plaintiff asked why, Defendants wouldn’t tell her and then blurred out a derogatory remark.  When Plaintiff tried to contact the CEO, Defendants threatened a harassment suit on the Plaintiff.
  3. Defendant's conduct was knowing, malicious, willful and wanton and showed a reckless disregard for Plaintiff, which has caused and continues to cause Plaintiff to suffer substantial economic and non-economic damages, permanent harm to her professional and personal reputation, and severe mental anguish and emotional distress.

JURISDICTION AND VENUE

  1. The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343, as this action involves federal questions regarding the deprivation of Plaintiff's civil rights under Title VII, Section 1981 and the ADA. The Court has supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's related claims arising under state and local law pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).
  2. Venue is proper in this district pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b) because a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to this action, including the unlawful employment practices alleged herein, occurred in this district.

PARTIES

  1. Plaintiff Simone Greggs is a citizen of the United States, residing in Prince George’s County, Maryland who is the caretaker of a child with a disability.  She was a potential employee for Autism Speaks yet was rescinded the employment offer due to the fact that she was having issues with daycare for her son who has Autism even though the issue was resolved.
  • Defendant, Autism Speaks is a non-profit organization, headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey doing business in Washington, DC.
  • Defendant, Mark Roithmayer is the president of Autism Speaks who works out of the New York office.
  • Defendant, Ann Gibbons is the Executive Director of the Washington, DC office of Autism Speaks where the discrimination had taken place.
  • Defendant, Pat DeSaules is the Director of Talent Acquisitions of Autism Speaks, conducting business in the New Jersey office.
  • Defendant, Tracey Wilbanks is the Regional Director of Autism Speaks, conducting business in the Georgia office.
  • Linda LePage is the Manager of Human Resources of Autism Speaks, conducting business in the New Jersey office.
  • PROCEDURAL REQUIREMENTS

    1. Plaintiff has complied with all statutory prerequisites to filing this action.
    2. On or about May 8, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Verified Complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC) charging Defendant with unlawful discriminatory employment practices because of disability issues.
    3. Any and all other prerequisites to the filing of this suit have been met.

    FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS

    1. Simone Greggs is a 44 year old, hard working single parent to two children one of which is a child who suffers from Autism. She has worked for several non-profit organizations successfully conducting fund raising and event planning for several years one which includes the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.  She was always a conscientious and reliable employee who at all times performs her duties in an exemplary manner and got along well with her colleagues and employers.
    2. After becoming laid off from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights due to budget cuts, Ms. Greggs had been out of work for over 18 months.
    3. In the beginning of March 2012, Ms. Greggs applied to the Walk Events Manager position at Autisms Speaks.
    4. On March 26, 2012, Ms. Greggs was contacted by the Director of Talent Acquisitions, Ms. Pat DeSaules in order to have a preliminary interview and a discussion about the position.
    5. On March 27, 2012, Ms. Greggs was moved forward in the interviewing process and had a telephone interview with the Executive Director, Ms. Ann Gibbons.
    6. On April 3, 2012, Ms. Greggs was again moved forward in the interviewing process and then had a face to face interview with the Executive Director, Ms. Ann Gibbons.
    7. On April 5, 2012, Once again, Ms. Greggs was moved forward in the interviewing process and had a phone interview with the Regional Director, Ms. Tracey Wilbanks.
    8. On April 11, 2012, Ms. Greggs then met and interviewed with Ms. Susan Pereles and met with the staff at the Washington, DC office.
    9. On April 13, 2012, Ms. Greggs was given an offer for employment contingent on passing the background check and drug test.  An offer letter was emailed to her where she sign and faxed back to the organization.
    10. On April 16, 2012, Ms. Greggs had received the “New Hire” paperwork and was told that she had until April 19, 2012 to complete and return.
    11. On April 19, 2012, Ms. Greggs had asked for an extension in order to complete the paperwork since it was so extensive, it was then granted.
    12. On April 23, 2012, Ms. Greggs had received an email stating that she had passed the background check and the drug test and was given a start date of May 7, 2012.
    13. On May 6, 2012, Ms. Greggs had contacted Ms. Ann Gibbons regarding an issue that she had regarding her Autistic son dealing with daycare on Wednesdays since her son gets home from school early.  Ms. Greggs proposed several solutions which included working from home or allowing her to come in very early so that she may leave early, or even taking a pay cut.  Ms. Gibbons denied the ability to work from home, however, allowed Ms. Greggs to delay her start day one week in order to get the situation resolved.
    14. On the same day, May 6, 2012, Ms. Greggs had resolved her daycare issue and didn’t need the adjustment.  Ms. Gibbons emailed back and was glad to hear that it had been resolved and told her that she looks forward to her starting.
    15. On May 7, 2012, a conference call took place with Ms. Greggs, which included, Ms. Gibbons, Ms. DeSaules, Ms. Wilbanks, and Ms. LePage, stating that they were rescinding the employment offer because they did not want to make any accommodations for the care of her Autistic child.
    16. On May 8, 2012, Ms. Greggs filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, based on Title I of the American with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq. (1990), which prohibits discriminatory hiring and personnel practices by employers against “qualified individuals with disabilities,” and requires employers to make “reasonable” efforts to accommodate individuals mental or physical limitations, as long as the accommodations do not present an undue hardship to the employer.  This law also protects people from discrimination based on their relationship with a person with a disability, even if they do not themselves have a disability, i.e. child with disability.  Autism Speaks clearly violated the law.
    17. Ms. Greggs had declined an employment opportunity with the Democratic National Committee which was presented towards her at the end of April because Autism Speaks had offered her a position with them that she had accepted.

    FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION

    1. Plaintiff hereby repeats and realleges each and every allegation in paragraphs 1 through 33, inclusive, as if fully set forth herein.
    2. Defendant has discriminated against Plaintiff on the basis of her child’s disability by denying her reasonable accommodations in order to perform the job and to take care of her Autistic child.
    3. As a direct and proximate result of Defendant's unlawful and discriminatory conduct, Plaintiff has suffered and continue to suffer severe mental anguish and emotional distress, including but not limited to depression, humiliation, embarrassment, stress and anxiety, loss of self-esteem and self-confidence, emotional pain and suffering, as well as physical injury, for which she is entitled to an award of monetary damages and other relief.
    4. Defendant's unlawful and discriminatory conduct was outrageous and malicious, was intended to injure Plaintiff, and was done with conscious disregard of Plaintiff's civil rights, entitling Plaintiff to an award of punitive damages.

     

    SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION

    1. Plaintiff hereby repeats and realleges each and every allegation in paragraphs 1 through 37, inclusive, as if fully set forth herein.
    2. Defendant violated its duty under the ADA to provide Plaintiff with a reasonable accommodation for her disabilities when it denied Plaintiff's request for the reasonable accommodation identified by Plaintiff for a modified work schedule, failed and refused to engage in discussion with Plaintiff regarding her need for an accommodation, and/or failed and refused to engage in discussion with Plaintiff regarding the potential provision of alternative accommodations after repeatedly denying Plaintiff's request for the accommodation identified by Plaintiff.
    3. As a direct and proximate result of Defendant's violation of its duty of reasonable accommodation under the ADA, Plaintiff has suffered and continues to suffer harm for which she is entitled to an award of damages.
    4. Defendant's unlawful conduct constitutes a knowing, malicious, willful and wanton violation of the ADA for which Plaintiff is entitled to an award of punitive damages.

    THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION

    1. Plaintiff hereby repeats and realleges each and every allegation in paragraphs 1 through 41, inclusive, as if fully set forth herein.
    2. Defendant offered Plaintiff employment with their organization on April 13, 2012 in which Plaintiff had accepted.
    3. On April 16, 2012, Defendant sent Plaintiff a “New Hire” packet in which Plaintiff signed contract and sent it back to the Human Resources department.
    4. On April 23, 2012, Defendant gave Plaintiff a “Start Date” of May 7, 2012.
    5. On May 7, 2012, Defendant had breach the contract by rescinding the employment offer.
    6. As a proximate result of Defendants' breaches, Plaintiffs have suffered compensatory damages in an amount to be proven at trial.

    PRAYER FOR RELIEF

    WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays that the Court enter judgment in her favor and against Defendant, containing the following relief:

    A.  A declaratory judgment that the actions, conduct and practices of Defendant complained of herein violate the laws of the United States and the District of Columbia;

    B. An injunction and order permanently restraining Defendant from engaging in such unlawful conduct;

    C. An order directing Defendant to take such affirmative action as is necessary to ensure that the effects of these unlawful employment practices are eliminated and do not continue to be practiced when determining employment;

    D. An award of damages in an amount to be determined at trial, plus prejudgment interest, to compensate Plaintiff for all monetary and/or economic harm;

    E.   An award of damages in an amount to be determined at trial, plus prejudgment interest, to compensate Plaintiff for harm to her professional and personal reputations and loss of career fulfillment;

    F.   An award of damages in an amount to be determined at trial, plus prejudgment interest, to compensate Plaintiff for all non-monetary and/or compensatory harm, including but not limited to, compensation for her mental anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, stress and anxiety, emotional pain and suffering, emotional distress and physical injuries;

    G. An award of damages for any and all other monetary and/or non-monetary losses suffered by Plaintiff in an amount to be determined at trial, plus prejudgment interest;

    H. An award of punitive damages;

    I.    An award of costs that Plaintiff has incurred in this action, as well as Plaintiff's reasonable attorneys' fees to the fullest extent permitted by law; and

    J.   Such other and further relief as the Court may deem just and proper.

    JURY DEMAND

     Plaintiff hereby demands a trial by jury on all issues of fact and damages stated herein.

    Respectfully submitted,

     

    ____________________________

    Simone L. Greggs

    219 Red Jade Drive

    Upper Marlboro, MD 20774

    240-695-2629

    VERIFICATION

     I, Simone Greggs, am a plaintiff in the above-entitled action.  I have read the foregoing and know the contents thereof.  The same is true of my own knowledge, except as to those matters which are therein alleged on information and belief, and as to those matters, I believe it to be true.  I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct and that this declaration was executed in the District of Columbia.

                                                                ____________________________________

     

    STATE OF MARYLAND

     

    I, ______________________________________________, a Notary Public in and for said County and State, do hereby certify that Simone Greggs personally appeared before me this day, and acknowledged the due execution of the foregoing Complaint; that the said Simone Greggs stated that she signed the same freely and voluntarily, without fear or compulsion of any person; and that he voluntarily assents thereto.

     

    Witness my hand and seal this ______ day of ___________, 2012.

     

    _____________________________________________

     

    Notary Public

     

    My Commission Expires:_____________________

    Posted by Age of Autism at July 19, 2012 at 5:45 AM in Current Affairs Permalink

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