Suit: Disabled railroad employee called 'ungrateful' for accommodations before termination

By Jim Boyle | Oct 6, 2014

A former employee for a Bucks County specialty railroad company says that her employers

discriminated against disabilities she gained after a car accident and terminated her job because of special accommodations she qualified for under the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to a federal lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Christy Gallagher, of Churchville, Pa., says that her firing was one in a pattern of behavior by her supervisors at the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad, citing two other examples when two employees sustained a severe injury and were terminated.

The plaintiff seeks more than $150,000 damages for violations of the ADA and the Family and Medical Leave Act. She says that her supervisors discriminated against her disabilities by assuming she would not be able to perform the regular duties of her position, when, in fact, Gallagher could meet the job requirements with minor accommodations from her employers.

According to the suit, Gallagher was in a car accident in April 2011, resulting in serious pain to her neck and back and, later, a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease. Despite the severe pain, Gallagher continued to work regularly at the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad for two years, where she assisted the general manager with daily operations and oversaw marketing, event planning and other administrative duties.

The suit says that in October 2013, the pain became too much to bear, and Gallagher asked for and received permission to work from home through December, with occasional visits to the office. At the end of the year, Gallagher informed her employers that she needed surgery that would keep her away out of work for the following three months, but she hoped to get back to work sooner on a light schedule.

According to the complaint, Gallagher received a bonus check that was two-thirds less than the previous year, despite the railroad experiencing one of its best quarters. The claim says that the bonus reduction did not affect employees who did not have special work accommodations.

Gallagher also says that after she notified management about her upcoming surgeries, a new person was hired as a senior marketing consultant and performed many of the duties that Gallagher previously handled. Finally, on Jan. 2, 2014, the plaintiff was informed via e-mail that her employment had been terminated.

The reason offered by the defendants is that Gallagher had been working reduced hours from home, she did not work as hard as other members of management and was ungrateful for the accommodations afforded to her.

The plaintiff is represented by Andrew Abramson of Abramson Employment Law in Blue Bell, Pa.

The federal case ID is 2:14-cv-05643-JD.


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