Disabled Erie man alleges Stairways Behavioral violated ADA rights

By Kasey Schefflin-Emrich | Aug 20, 2015

A disabled Erie man is suing his former employer, alleging unlawful employment practices on the basis of his disability.

Wayne R. Gardner filed a lawsuit July 6 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Stairways Behavioral Health, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the complaint, Gardner began working for the defendant as a rehabilitation coordinator in January 1998. He was diagnosed with an autonomic neurological condition in 2010 in which he experiences periods of light-headedness and sometimes loses consciousness, the lawsuit says.

The suit states during a workday in June 2013 Gardner experienced light-headedness and a supervisor thought Gardner looked as if he were ready to pass out. Despite this, the lawsuit states, Stairways Behavioral didn't contact emergency services or call its nurse or program director to examine Gardner. Until he was sent home in the late afternoon, Gardner continued to go about his work duties and was even asked to take residents on a walk to the park, the suit says.

Gardner was taken off work and required to provide clearance to return to work following the events of that day, the suit states, but despite providing releases from both a physician and a neurologist that said Gardner could return to work and was only restricted when experiencing warning signs of a spell such as light-headedness, Stairways Behavioral terminated him because of his medical condition.

The suit also says Gardner required no accommodations while on the job except for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, of which he was eligible.

Gardner seeks reinstatement, lost wages and benefits, compensatory and punitive damages, attorney fees, court costs and other relief deemed appropriate by the court. He is represented by attorneys Edward Betza and Stacey Baltz of Elderkin Law Firm in Erie.

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania case number 1:15-cv-00163-SPB.

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