State Ordered To Pay $3 Million To Former Blindness Bureau Director
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
November 23, 2005
HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA--The former head of Pennsylvania's Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services was awarded more than $3 million dollars this week after claiming that the agency fired her because she is blind.
A federal jury on Tuesday ordered Stephen Nasuti, the former director of the Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, and Stephen Schmerin, the secretary of the Department of Labor and Industry, to pay Christine L. 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.
U.S. District Judge Sylvia Rambo did not rule on Boone's request to have her old job back.
"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."
A spokesperson for Labor and Industry said the agency would appeal the ruling.
"Fired blind woman awarded $3 million" (Patriot-News)