The West Virginia Division of Motor Vehicles has won its appeal in
a discrimination case filed by a woman with a traumatic brain injury.
The Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia made its ruling in January. The
case was filed by Renee L. Richardson-Powers and the West Virginia
Human Rights Commission after Powers was let go from her DMV customer
service representative (CSR) job after several months of allegedly
Richardson-Powers, who suffered a brain injury after a fall from a ledge
near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. as a child, testified
that she has difficulty learning from the injury in what results as
“cognitive deficits.” She applied for the CSR position with the DMV in
2010 and began her six-month probationary employment with the
organization on March 22, 2010.
According to court documents, Richardson-Powers
did not disclose her brain injury or her learning difficulties at the
time of the job interview and initially told her office manager,
Christine Frick that she learned best through repetition and note
taking. During her first week of employment she was assigned a trainer,
Angie Kuykendall, who asked to be relieved of her duties because of the
difficulties she was having with Powers.
According to Kuykendall,
was uncooperative, refused to take notes and would wander away from her DMV window. To further accommodate
Richardson-Powers, a second trainer was appointed, Danetta Calhoun. She experienced similar problems with
Richardson-Powers, who then revealed to Frick that she had a brain injury and didn’t want her co-workers to know.
Richardson-Powers again told Frick she learned best through repetition and note taking.
the seventh day of her employment,
Richardson-Powers was moved to a third trainer, Terry Graves.
became upset with Graves after being reprimanded in front of a customer
and was reported by Graves as not believing what she was being told
about how to perform her position.
was given her own DMV window to operate on April 11, 2010, performing
what the DMV considers the easiest transactions – tag renewals and
driver’s licenses. During her time working solo,
was reported to continue to ask management questions during every
transaction she handled.
Richardson-Powers’ 60-day review, she asked for additional training,
which was provided by the DMV. It was observed that
could manage the tasks if someone was sitting with her. The DMV felt
she should be able to do the job on her own at this time. A 90-day
review was held, and
requested that Frick contact her brain trauma counselor. Frick denied
the request but was later contacted by the state director of the
Americans with Disability Act. Frick told ADA that Powers had not
provided any proof of her disability.
was then denied “reasonable accommodation under the ADA” by the West
Virginia Department of Transportation, court documents state. She was
terminated from her employment on Sept. 30, 2010.
filed suit and was awarded back pay, attorney fees and allowed to be
reinstated at her position with the DMV. The decision by Judge Robert B.
Wilson was adopted by the Human Rights Commission and later appealed by
the DMV. In its appeal the DMV, cited that
wasn’t a “qualified person with a disability” and could perform the
functions of the position with reasonable accommodation.
James Petrick, who had examined her, testified that the position as CSR
would have proved challenging for
as it required problem-solving with each transaction, something that
trouble. Her past jobs involved repetition, while the DMV CSR position
would involve unique handling with each customer. Dr. Petrick, also went
on to say that
Richardson-Powers personality would be difficult to manage and could
potentially frustrate a customer.
The court ruled that the
could not prove that she was a qualified candidate that could perform
the job duties with reasonable accommodation and reserved the decision
of the commission.