Veteran suburban Pa. schoolteacher files suit over disparate scrutiny, alleges retaliation over complaint

By Jon Campisi | Mar 14, 2012

A suburban Philadelphia teacher who alleges she has been put under “improper and disparate scrutiny” because she filed a complaint against her employer with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has now filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the school district where she has worked as an educator since the early 1980s.

Penndel, Pa. attorneys Timothy M. Kolman and Wayne A. Ely filed the lawsuit March 8 at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia on behalf of Westampton, N.J. resident Shyvonne Ballard.

The defendant named in the lawsuit is the Bensalem (Pa.) Township School District.

The lawsuit claims that Ballard, who has been employed as a teacher with the district since 1983, requested a special accommodation on March 16, 2010 after being diagnosed by her doctors as having chronic recurring bronchitis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The requested accommodation was that her classroom be kept to 74 degrees, or that she be permitted a space heater, if necessary, to prevent exacerbation of her physical symptoms, the suit states.

Ballard’s principal, identified in the lawsuit as Kathy Leon, denied the plaintiff’s request via email, and suggested Ballard get in touch with human resources if she had additional issues, according to the complaint.

“Plaintiff was not accommodated and was also instructed not to talk to office personnel, janitorial staff or maintenance, about the issue of heat,” the lawsuit claims.

As a result of inadequate heat inside her classroom, Ballard became ill on March 29, 2010, and ended up having to contact her medical doctor, who subsequently wrote a letter dated April 1, 2010, in which he requested the special temperature on Ballard’s behalf, the lawsuit states.

The suit claims that nothing was ever done to address Ballard’s concerns.

On May 28, 2010, Ballard filed a charge of discrimination against the defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, followed by a second complaint to the agency on Dec. 8, 2011, according to the complaint.

She was then issued a right-to-sue letter.

The lawsuit claims that Ballard was subsequently discriminated against following her written charges with the administrative agency.

The complaint outlines various instances in which supervisors paid unannounced visits to Ballard’s classroom, and otherwise gave her a hard time.

In one instance, Ballard arrived at her classroom to discover that two large bookshelves had been moved out of place.

The suit claims that the bookshelves were moved out of place on purpose to see if Ballard would attempt to return them to their rightful spot within the classroom.

This was done, the lawsuit alleges, to see if Ballard was faking her asthma.

The suit lists other examples of Ballard allegedly being unfairly singled out for various reasons.

The complaint accuses the school district of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

The suit also claims that the defendant retaliated against Ballard for engaging in lawfully protected activity.

The complaint seeks to have the school district enjoined from discriminating against the plaintiff on the basis of her disability.

Through the suit, Ballard also demands to be compensated for pain and suffering, as well as to be awarded actual damages, punitive damages and litigation costs.

Ballard seeks a trial by jury.


The federal case ID number is 2:12-cv-01220-MAM. 

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