Bucks County Intermediate Unit faces suit over firing of veteran secretary

Jon Campisi Apr. 4, 2012, 8:48am

A former secretary with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, a regional agency that provides educational services, who was fired after 26 years with the organization has filed a federal complaint against her former employer alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Employment attorney Ari R. Karpf filed the lawsuit March 27 at the federal court in Philadelphia on behalf of Bensalem, Pa. resident Paula Birney.

In addition to the agency, three other defendants are listed in the suit. They are Mark Hoffman, Barry Galasso and Judy Magee.

Each of the three co-defendants have a hand in the hiring and firing of employees, the suit states.

According to the complaint, Birney, who worked at the agency’s Doylestown, Pa. location, suffered from serious health conditions, including herniated discs in her neck, nerve damage and a heart condition, all of which required ongoing medical attention and treatment.

Because of her ailments, Birney is occasionally limited in the use of her arms, balance, thinking, concentration and other activities, the suit claims.

Nevertheless, Birney was always able to perform the essential functions of her job, the lawsuit states.

Throughout her employment, Birney took intermittent leave from work under the Family and Medical Leave Act due to her health conditions. She also attended physical therapy and had to get up and move around during work on occasion because of her health conditions.

Throughout 2008 and 2009, as her conditions worsened, Birney had to take additional leave from work, which she always informed her bosses about, the suit states.

This continued on into 2010, and at one point Birney had a meeting with defendant Hoffman and Defendant Magee in which they instructed Birney that her absences were “unacceptable,” and that she was being suspended without pay pending the recommendation that she be terminated, the complaint states.

On Aug. 2, 2010, Birney was officially suspended because of her FMLA-qualifying absences and intermittent leave, the lawsuit contends.

Magee and Hoffman subsequently told Birney that if her attendance didn’t improve, she would be recommended for termination.

That termination recommendation was made official in late August 24 through a letter by Defendant to Galasso, who cited the ongoing absences as a reason why Birney should be fired.

Birney was officially terminated from her position in September 2010.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of actual and perceived disability discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination, and interference and retaliation.

Birney seeks to have the defendants prohibited from continuing their illegal policy of discriminating. She also seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, in addition to attorneys fees and other court costs.

Birney is demanding a jury trial.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-01523. 

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