Ohio Lawsuit Reflects Need For Safer Workplaces For Vulnerable Employees
People with intellectual disabilities have a right to fulfilling, meaningful work in their communities, free from discrimination and safe in their persons. Unfortunately for one Akron, Ohio, Wal-Mart employee, her workplace was both unsafe and illegal, alleges her employment discrimination lawsuit.
According to Courthouse News Service, the parent and guardian of a Wal-Mart associate with developmental disabilities has filed a lawsuit with multiple legal claims against the company and three of its other employees, including disability discrimination, gender discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, negligent hiring, negligent supervision, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and breach of fiduciary duty.
She reportedly seeks to be reinstated at her Wal-Mart job and asks for punitive damages, meant to punish the defendants.
The suit is based on allegations of repeated sexual and physical assaults on the female worker by an elderly male employee. Reportedly, after working at Wal-Mart for more than five years, the victim began to display negative behavioral and personality changes and the employer allegedly learned of the “inappropriate conduct.” According to The Huffington Post, Wal-Mart allegedly reprimanded the man, but did not fire him.
Five years later in 2010, the employee finally reported the assaults directly to management and the alleged perpetrator was fired. Reportedly, the attacker complained that he was wrongly let go, and shortly thereafter, Wal-Mart also fired the victim.
Around that time, the victim and her mother reported the abuse to authorities and the abuser pleaded guilty to “gross sexual imposition.”
The Huffington Post reports that court records include the opinion of a clinical psychologist that the victim only has the capacity of a child to “consent” to sexual activity. Unfortunately, literature all across the Internet confirms that persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities are sexually abused at much higher rates than other people are, and are targeted because of their inability to understand such crimes, as well as limited in their capacity to report and provide evidence to authorities.
Not surprisingly, the plaintiff is reportedly experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD, a mental health problem caused by exposure to traumatic events. Symptoms can be debilitating and can include anxiety, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, numbness, hopelessness and more. PTSD is especially common among combat veterans, which sheds some light on the type and level of trauma the victim in this lawsuit may have suffered.
No one should experience what this plaintiff allegedly did at work. Federal and state employment laws protect people from illegal discrimination, wrongful discharge, retaliation for speaking out against unlawful treatment, harassment and more. If you or a loved one is victimized in his or her place of employment, speak with an experienced employment law attorney to learn about your legal rights and potential remedies.