News Column

Oak Ridge settles wrongful firing lawsuit

January 28, 2014

By Bob Fowler, The Knoxville News-Sentinel, Tenn.

Jan. 28 -- OAK RIDGE -- City Council in special session Monday approved a $37,500 settlement of a federal lawsuit filed by a former city employee who contended she was forced into disability retirement when she wanted to keep working. The city's insurance carrier, Tennessee Municipal League Risk Management Pool , paid the other half of the $75,000 mediated settlement of the wrongful termination complaint. Kay Littlejohn , a 19-year employee of the city who worked at first as a code enforcement officer, filed the complaint in March. The lawsuit, initially filed in Anderson County Circuit Court , sought $2.75 million in compensatory and punitive damages from the city. According to the original complaint, Littlejohn has multiple sclerosis but was still able to perform her job. Starting in 2008, Littlejohn exercised her Family and Medical Leave Act rights due to her illness on an "as needed basis." Three years later, the city's personnel director and Littlejohn's supervisor "began recommending that she seek disability retirement," the complaint stated. Those retirement directives continued, and Littlejohn exercised her seniority rights to a transfer to the city's Public Works Department after she was told she would be terminated in September 2011 , according to the legal action. She was given "little to no training" in the new post and received poor evaluations and placed on probation, it continues. During that time she "continued to be pushed toward taking disability." The city, according to the lawsuit, "has engaged in a pattern of discrimination against employees with disabilities." Littlejohn was terminated by the city in March 2012 , according to the lawsuit, because she refused to take disability early retirement and because she used her FMLA rights. The complaint also noted that Littlejohn is black and over the age of 40, and she was replaced by a "Caucasian under the age of 40." ___ (c)2014 the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) Visit the Knoxville News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tenn.) at www.knoxnews.com Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)


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