Employee sues WVDOT for discrimination

CHARLESTON -- An employee is suing the West Virginia Department of Transportation-Division of Highways after he claims he was discriminated against because of his illness. Terry D. Powell was employed by the WVDOT as a Transportation Worker 2-Equipment Operator, which required him to operate equipment and perform labor associated with road maintenance and the maintenance of the equipment, according to a complaint filed July 31 in Kanawha Circuit Court. Powell claims in August 2009 he was diagnosed with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and his physician provided written notice that he could only perform restricted duties. The initial accommodation provided to Powell was that he flag traffic, which was not sufficiently restricted for his condition, according to the suit. Powell claims on Oct. 26, 2009, he was placed on medical leave of absence without pay with the explanation that the defendant needed to assess the viability of providing a reasonable accommodation to his limitations through the assessment of his medical condition. However, the defendant did not accommodate Powell's condition and on a much later date and after losing substantial income, Powell was notified of a position at the district headquarters gas house, which his physician indicated he could perform the duties required in the position and he accepted it on May 9, 2011, according to the suit. Powell claims he was subjected to disability discrimination and was without pay through May 2011 and afterward, he filed a grievance objecting to his leave of absence without pay, but it was denied on April 30. Based upon his COPD, Powell suffered harassment and discrimination, which violated the West Virginia Human Rights Act, according to the suit. Powell claims in withholding the income to which he is entitled, the defendant has enriched itself to his financial detriment. The defendant also caused Powell to suffer lost wages; profound and acute mental and emotional distress; aggravation, annoyance and inconvenience; and other damages, according to the suit. Powell is seeking compensatory damages. He is being represented by David M. Grunau. The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Jennifer Bailey. Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 12-C-1512

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