Surgery Blamed In Firing

Lawsuit Claims Discrimination

April 29, 1992|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

A Reisterstown man was fired from his management job at a South Carroll beverage distributorship five years before he expected to retire because he told his boss he needed heart surgery, a suit filed in Circuit Court says.

In the wrongful-termination lawsuit, Robert De Paola claims that in 1991 he was removed from his $40,000-a-year job asdraught-goods sales manager at Bees Distributing Co. Inc. in Finksburg two days after telling company president Charles Richard BroderickIII that he was to undergo major heart surgery.

The suit, which seeks more than $200,000 in back and future wagesand De Paola's reinstatement to his job, claims Bees discriminated against him because of a physical handicap -- the heart condition -- and because of his age.

The April 22 court filing is the latest in a multi-pronged attempt by De Paola to prove Bees discriminated against him.

In a March 23 review of a 1991 finding, the Maryland Commission on Human Relations reaffirmed its decision that no probable cause existed for age or physical handicap discrimination complaints against Bees.

De Paola, whose age was unavailable, has appealed the commission's finding on the age issue to U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

De Paola's Baltimore attorney, Roger W. Malik, through a spokeswoman, declined to comment on the suit. The spokeswoman declined todisclose De Paola's age.

Broderick also declined to comment.

The lawsuit touches on an issue that has been discussed widely recently -- discrimination against people with physical disabilities.

In July, the Americans with Disabilities Act will require companies with15 or more employees to take steps to eliminate discriminatory practices against people with handicaps. The act calls for elimination of questions regarding an employee's health on job applications and substantially higher penalties against companies that discriminate on thebasis of handicap.

This type of complaint could become more prevalent when the new law takes effect, said Jennifer Burdick, executive director of the state Human Relations Commission.

Of the nearly 1,200 cases heard each year by the commission, nearly 24 percent involve issues of handicap discrimination. The commission finds probable cause for discrimination in about 120 cases a year.

According to thelawsuit, Broderick did not initially give De Paola a reason for his firing. Later, the suit says, Broderick said the termination of the 12-year employee was a business decision.

However, an employee at Bees is still carrying out De Paola's responsibilities, the suit claims. That employee is 25 years younger than De Paola and does not have a heart condition, the suit says.

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