Richmond Sheriff's Office faces 'disability discrimination' lawsuit

Published: Mar. 2, 2016 at 8:56 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 13, 2016 at 3:52 PM EDT
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ALEXANDRIA, VA (WWBT) - The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia and the Justice Department filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Richmond City Sheriff's Office for disability discrimination.

The organization is accused of firing a former deputy after "failing to reassign her to a vacant position" that she was qualified for, violating Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The deputy, who worked for the organization for about 10 years, says she asked to be reassigned to another position due to a heart condition that prevented her from carrying out her duties as a deputy.

"The Richmond City Sheriff's Office vehemently denies that the former employee was discriminated against under the ADA. Further, the Sheriff's Office believes that the 4th Circuit has declined to mandate a reassignment based upon disability as a reasonable accommodation. There is a split in the federal circuits over the mandate that the federal government wishes to impose," the Richmond Sheriff's Office said in a statement on Thursday.

According to the Department of Justice, Title I of the ADA prevents employers from discriminating against individuals based on their disability, which includes failing to provide reasonable accommodations, including reassignment, that does not create problems for the employer.

"Employment is a vital part of life for all individuals, and the ADA ensures that qualified individuals who develop disabilities are able to stay employed," said Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

"The ADA guarantees people with disabilities the right to earn a living and advance their careers free from workplace discrimination," said Vanita Gupta, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. "The Justice Department will continue to vigorously enforce the ADA and ensure that when employees develop disabilities that interfere with their job, employers reassign them to a different vacant position that matches their qualifications."

"We believe that our efforts were in conformity with prior federal precedence and Virginia state law," the sheriff's office said in its statement. "The Richmond City Sheriff's Office is committed to following federal and state laws and we look forward to the 4th Circuit's position on this matter in hopes of having clearer guidance for this agency, our Virginia Constitutional partners and federal government partners."

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