A former TV producer in Florida, whose bosses ordered her to relocate to Washington, DC, claims in a new lawsuit that the proposed transfer violated her civil rights.
Karina Gomes alleges Al Jazeera International failed to provide reasonable accommodations for her bipolar disorder under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 by floating the relocation, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.
Moving would be “like removing a handicap ramp from a building,” her lawyer claims in the federal lawsuit filed in Miami.
Gomes started out work for the company’s Washington office in 2005 — but Al Jazeera moved her to Miami to accommodate her disability, her lawyer claims.
In May 2011, Gomes had a “meltdown” after working for two months without any assistance. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder a month later before being placed on short-term disability until September of that year, according to her lawsuit.
In an attempt to “accommodate [her] condition,” Gomes’ supervisor then asked her if she’d be willing to move to Miami to open a bureau there, the suit claims.
“Her boss at the time, Heather Allen, told [Gomes] that she knows exactly how those with bipolar are affected by season as her brother has the same condition,” the suit continues.
Gomes then took time off from her job “as her mental health was affecting her due to the workload” associated with more than 30 days of continuous assignments. She ultimately went on short-term disability as her psychiatrist tweaked her medication in an effort to “stabilize her,” the lawsuit claims.
But Gomes was notified in late 2016 that her role in Miami was being eliminated. Al Jazeera offered her a job in Washington, but Gomes’ psychiatrist tried to explain to the company that the “change in seasons” affected her and that she was just fine in south Florida — where she was “stable,” the lawsuit claims.
That didn’t sway Al Jazeera, however, and the broadcaster told Gomes that she couldn’t keep her post in Miami, “effectively terminating [her] employment,” according to the lawsuit, which seeks more than $75,000 in damages plus legal fees.
“Our hope is that a suit like this can shed light on a condition that most people don’t know how difficult it is to live with, where something as simple as the changing of the seasons can dramatically affect someone’s everyday life,” Gomes’ attorney, Chad Levy, told the newspaper. “It certainly should be something forced upon an employee.”
Gomes now works in strategic communications and real estate, according to her LinkedIn profile. A message seeking comment from Al Jazeera Media Network early Tuesday was not immediately returned.
The Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 protects people from discrimination due to “race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap or marital status.”
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