Salt Lake Tribune, Utah.
Friday, May 19, 2006.
Employment: Plaintiff claims her disability cost her a campus job for which she says she was qualified.
A Baltimore woman is suing the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind, claiming she was denied a job because she is blind.
Mary Jo Thorpe, who is legally blind, is seeking back pay, front pay and reimbursement for her monetary loses, including lost wages, and damages for her suffering, loss of enjoyment of life and other losses.
The suit, filed Wednesday in 3rd District Court in Salt Lake City, alleges the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind (USDB) has failed to hire any blind applicants for the early intervention specialist position and has represented in discussions at the Utah Antidiscrimination and Labor Division it will continue to refuse to hire any blind people for the position.
The suit contends that sight is not necessary to do the job.
USDB human resource director, Bruce Buland, said Wednesday night that he hadn't seen the lawsuit and declined to comment.
USDB is an educational resource center for Utah children who are deaf, blind or both.
In 2004, Thorpe applied for the job of early intervention specialist, which work with blind and/or deaf-blind children from birth to 3 years old.
During an informal interview, a USDB employee appeared impressed with Thorpe's qualifications and said her prospects for getting the job were very good, the suit states.
The employee assured Thorpe that USDB could accommodate her blindness by providing a driver and reader and even remarked she would be an excellent
"role model" for the blind students, the suit says.
Thorpe also had a formal interview, but never heard back.
When she contacted USDB in January 2005, two employees informed Thorpe that USDB rejected her application because she was blind, the suit contends.
"USDB's only reason for rejecting Ms. Thorpe's job application was her blindness," the suit states. "Ms. Thorpe was otherwise fully qualified for the position."
The lawsuit also seeks a judgment that USDB has engaged in unlawful discriminatory employment practices and a permanent injunction requiring USDB to provide accommodations for those who are legally blind so they can do the job of early intervention specialist.
The National Federation of the Blind, which is a nonprofit organization of blind persons, is also named as a plaintiff, suing on behalf of its members who would have standing to sue in their own right.
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