Fired Phila. Housing Authority worker files discrimination suit against agency

By Jon Campisi | Mar 8, 2012

A former facilities manager at the Philadelphia Housing Authority who claims she was fired because of her gender has filed a federal discrimination complaint against the municipal housing agency.

Martha M. Mulenga, who resides in Berlin, N.J., and began working for the PHA in February 2009, claims the PHA terminated her employment in March 2010 because of her sex, and because of a PHA policy to “discriminate against female workers.”

The lawsuit, which was filed March 8 at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Philadelphia attorney Scott M. Pollins, of the firm Willig, Williams & Davidson, states that in January 2010, Mulenga made a request to her supervisor that she be transferred from the Blumberg housing facility in North Philadelphia to another PHA site due to the fact that she felt unsafe working at Blumberg.

The request was denied, however, because, the complaint states, Mulenga’s supervisor said she was one of the agency’s best workers, she was capable of dealing with the Blumberg site and other employees were aware of the security concerns at Blumberg and would not want to be transferred there.

On March 9, 2010, Mulenga was working her shift when she heard a gunshot and saw people outside of the facility fleeing in all directions.

Mulenga was unable to leave her job that night until about 9 p.m. because her vehicle was parked in an area that was roped off and designated a crime scene by law enforcement.

The incident caused Mulenga to experience stress and anxiety, and she ended up having to contact a psychologist to deal with her post-traumatic issues, the suit states.

On March 18, Mulenga saw the psychologist, who subsequently wrote a doctor’s note letting Mulenga’s supervisors know the employee was being treated for acute stress disorder, that she was experiencing panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, chest pains, shakes and fear, the suit claims.

Mulenga never got a chance to give her supervisors the therapist’s note, however, since she learned on March 19 that she was being terminated, supposedly for “abandonment of job,” the suit states.

“Mulenga did not abandon her job, and she was not AWOL,” the lawsuit states. “She was in communication with her supervisors each day she was out of work and she had a psychologist’s certificate to return to work ready to send to PHA.”

The lawsuit cites the example of a male employee who similarly did not show up for work for about one week after a shooting occurred while he was at his facility in North Philadelphia, but who was never terminated for abandoning his job.

The lawsuit accuses PHA of violating the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, saying Mulenga’s illness constituted a “serious health condition” under federal law.

The complaint also accuses the PHA of violating Mulenga’s 14th Amendment rights.

The lawsuit contains counts of retaliation and sex discrimination.

Mulenga seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as back pay and benefits, attorney’s fees and injunctive relief.

A jury trial has been demanded.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-01197-JD. 

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