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The Chronicle of Higher Education

Texas Woman's University Ordered
 to Pay Disabled Professor For Retaliation
 Under Americans with Disabilities Act

Tuesday, January 4, 2000


A judge has ordered Texas Woman's University to pay a
professor $300,000, supporting a jury's ruling that university
officials had retaliated against the professor after she told
them she was disabled and needed special work accommodations.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Calvin Botley agreed with the jury
verdict in a decision he issued December 27.

Last May, the jury found that the Denton, Tex., institution
had retaliated against O. Jayne Bowman, an associate
professor of occupational therapy, whose doctors told the
university in 1993 that she suffers from a degenerative
neurological disorder that saps her energy.

The professor had asked the university to reduce her teaching
load but allow her to continue serving on the Faculty Senate
and conducting her research.

Instead, the university assigned her a full slate of courses
and stripped her of the Faculty Senate position and her
research responsibilities.

At the same time, it cut her salary in half, said Joseph Y. Ahmad,
Ms. Bowman's lawyer.

Ms. Bowman, who has taught at Texas Woman's University
since 1985, sued the university in 1996, charging that the
institution had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act
by discriminating and retaliating against her.

The jury did not find the university guilty of the underlying
discrimination, but it said officials had retaliated against
Ms. Bowman once she told them about her disability and
requested special accommodations.

Ms. Bowman, who did not respond to telephone messages,
charged that officials at Texas Woman's University told her
they doubted her doctors' diagnosis and began treating
her without respect.

"She noticed immediately after she wrote a letter requesting
accommodations that they became very hostile to her
," Mr.
Ahmad said of university officials. "They began to question
whether she had the disability."

No officials at Texas Woman's University would speak about
the case, but in court documents Texas Woman's University
said it did not believe Ms. Bowman's neurological problems
amounted to a disability as defined by the Americans with
Disabilities Act.

Nonetheless, the university said that once Ms. Bowman told
officials about the disorder, the university provided "reasonable accommodations" and did not retaliate against her.

Of the $300,000 jury award, $270,000 was for mental anguish,
and $30,000 was for sick days that Ms. Bowman was forced
to use
but that she felt should have been provided under the
disabilities law.

In addition to the jury's award, the judge also awarded the
$250,000 in lawyers' fees -- [a total of $550,000].

Original Source:  The Chronicle of Higher Education

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