Maricopa County Agrees to Pay $100,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Charge of Highly Regarded, Long-Term Employee.
PHOENIX — Maricopa County will pay $100,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination charge filed by Complainant Roberta Bonaski, a former long-term employee of the Maricopa County Department of Transportation (MCDOT).
Ms. Bonaski’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge alleged that she was unlawfully fired from her job as the Public Information Officer Supervisor for MCDOT on the basis of her disability. Ms. Bonaski has macular dystrophy in both eyes, which limits her central vision and leaves her with peripheral vision only. Prior to her job termination, Ms. Bonaski had worked for MCDOT for nearly 17 years, and had been a highly successful employee with consistent outstanding reviews, awards, and promotions during her employment at the County.
Ms. Bonaski was fired by MCDOT within one month of a new supervisor’s arrival. When MCDOT issued the written job announcement for Ms. Bonaski’s former position, it included a statement that an applicant must be able to hear and see as a working condition for the position.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), it is unlawful to fire an employee on the basis of their disability. MCDOT and Ms. Bonaski voluntarily agreed to participate in mediation, and the parties reached a settlement to resolve her charge of employment discrimination.
“This settlement highlights the central goal of the ADA – individuals with disabilities must be evaluated based on their demonstrated abilities, and not on the assumed limitations of their disabilities,” explained Arizona Center for Disability Law (ACDL) Staff Attorney Maya Abela, who represented Ms. Bonaski.
Under the agreement, the County will pay Ms. Bonaski $92,000 in lost wages and damages, correct all employment records regarding her negative termination, remove any references that an applicant must be able to hear or see from its future job postings for public information officer and related positions within the County, and pay the ACDL $8,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
“I have always performed competitively in the workplace with my fully sighted professional colleagues,” said Ms. Bonaski. “The overt unfairness and ignorance associated with my blindness and wrongful termination was a setback not only for me personally, but for all persons with disabilities in the workplace. Thanks to ACDL, the County’s actions were not without consequence, particularly because government sector employers should lead by example with non-discriminatory employment practices.”
- Arizona Center for Disability Law