Blind Woman Fired as Head of State Blind Agency Awarded $3.4 Million
Information contributed by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
HARRISBURG, PA--Christine L. Boone's claim that she was fired by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services because she is blind was ratified by a jury last week, who awarded the former state employee $3.4 million. Her attorney has asked the judge to reinstate her to her former job.
"There are a lot of employees who really put a great deal on the line to come and testify for us," an elated Boone told reporters. "The jury decided that Boone had proven that the two men made false, defamatory and stigmatizing public statements about her firing that called into question her good name, reputation and professional qualifications," reported the Associated Press. (Read AP story.)
The federal jury ordered Stephen Nasuti, former director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Stephen Schmerin, the secretary of the Department of Labor and Industry, to pay Boone $3 million for emotional distress, $180,000 in front pay and $175,000 in punitive damages, the Patriot-News reported.
Boone's attorney, Arch Y. Stokes, told the court that Nasuti fired Boone, 44, because she strongly advocated for blind Pennsylvanians. Stokes said Nasuti deliberately set Boone up for minor infractions, refused to assign her a parking space in a safe pickup area -- even after she was accosted while waiting for a ride -- and failed to provide meeting agendas in Braille.
"Mr. Nasuti could not stand an independent blind woman who was assertive and abled," Stokes said.
Nasuti fired Boone for insubordination on August 14, 2003, after she refused to implement an approved policy -- which she believed was illegal -- regarding scholarships and school benefits for people with disabilities. The state argued that Boone had been fired because she could not be counted on to do her job and was not reliable. The state's attorney said the case is about "the equality to get fired."
"I'm elated. I'm so proud of everybody who helped us bring this case to fruition," Boone told The Associated Press. "There are a lot of employees who really put a great deal on the line to come and testify for us."
Boone had told jurors she wanted her old job back, along with lost wages estimated at $80,000.
U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo did not rule on Boone's request to have her old job back.
"Fired blind woman awarded $3 million" (Patriot-News)