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ADA complaint against IPS will continue

February 2, 2018

A federal lawsuit alleging Indianapolis Public Schools failed to accommodate a former employee’s disability will proceed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana after a judge partially denied IPS’ motion to dismiss.

In August 2016, Toni Yvonne Lane, an IPS bus attendant, filed an ADA Physician’s Statement which claimed she suffered from “systemic lupus with kidney disease (and) chronic asthma,” requiring her to work in an air-conditioned environment that would limit sweating, dehydration and breathing difficulties. The school system subsequently filed an accommodation form that temporarily assigned Lane to light duty on an air-conditioned bus.

The following April, Lane submitted a letter from her doctor that stated her bus she worked on could be no more than 70 degrees. However, she then filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May, alleging there had been at least eight days in April in which the temperature was 70 degrees or warmer, so she had to take several days off work to avoid the warm weather.

Meanwhile, the school system began a disciplinary proceeding against Lane in late May, alleging she had hit a child on her bus to wake him up. Lane argued that another IPS employee was reassigned when he hit a child, but she was eventually terminated.

Lane then filed two distinct pro se claims against IPS – one for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and one for failure to accommodate her disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In a Thursday opinion, Southern District Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson granted IPS’ motion to dismiss the employment claim, relying on Lane’s concession that she was not seeking any relief under Title VII. However, Magnus-Stinson allowed the ADA complaint to continue.

The chief judge pointed to the evidence Lane submitted as part of her complaint, specifically medical documentation of her lupus with kidney disease and asthma, and her doctor’s letters stating she could work only in certain conditions. Lane further alleged the school system stopped providing her with an air-conditioned bus in April 2017, even though she allegedly told four individuals of her need for accommodation.

“Provided these facts, and given the Court’s relaxed standards for pro se pleadings … Ms. Lane has adequately pleaded a claim under the ADA through the information submitted,” Magnus-Stinson wrote in denying IPS’ motion to dismiss.

However, because Lane is now represented by counsel, the chief judge ordered her to file an amended complaint that outlines the precise claims she is pursuing. 

In a statement to the Indiana Lawyer, IPS spokeswoman Carrie Black said the school district is encouraged by the partial grant of its motion to dismiss, and will continue to defend itself against the remaining ADA claims. 

The case is Toni Yvonne Lane v. Indianapolis Public Schools, 1:17-cv-03320.

 

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