Boyer v. State (disability discrimination)




Jury verdict of over $75,000.  Attorney fees award $300,000.
Thurston County jury awarded a former State Department or Revenue employee damages totaling $75,000 for terminating him in 2009, after failing to accommodate his disabilities.  Grant Boyer suffers from a form of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), which requires that he have immediate access to bathroom facilities.  His IBS was a complication stemming from a 1993 gall bladder surgery.  In 1999, he was also diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome. He worked as an appraiser in DOR’s Olympia office from 1999 to 2008 with both disabilities and was evaluated as an excellent employee.  During that time he used Dragon Speak software to enter data into his computer and needed no accommodation for the IBS, because his building had a sufficient number of bathrooms.  In 2008, he took a job with DOR in its Richland  office.  Upon his arrival in March 2008, he learned that the building had only one stall in the men’s bathroom, which was shared by all male DOR employees and the public, and that the computer network was too slow to use Dragon Speak.  He asked for accommodation, proposing at one point that he be allowed to work from home, or to have DOR obtain a porta potty for his exclusive use, or build him bathroom.  DOR refused and did nothing to accommodate his IBS. Jack Sheridan, his attorney, stated, “As a result, if the stall was occupied, Grant had about 10 minutes to find a bathroom or he would become incontinent.  He would typically try to drive to a nearby mall to use their public restroom—sometimes he made it and sometimes he didn’t.”  As to the carpal tunnel syndrome, instead of fixing the network, so his Dragon Speak would work, Sheridan said, “they offered him training in using Dragon Speak, which he’d been using for 5 years.  He didn’t need training, he needed a working infrastructure.” As a result Mr. Boyer developed an anxiety disorder, and went out on leave in November.  Sheridan said, “When Grant asked them to move him into a vacant position in Olympia in September, they said no, because they claimed the job required some travel and he couldn’t travel.” DOR managers made the claim after he drove repeatedly from Richland to Tumwater to meet with the DOR Risk Manger.   Sheridan said, “He was humiliated and beaten down.”  When he tried to return in 2009, the infrastructure problems were still not fixed and DOR terminated him in December 2009 claiming they could not accommodate him.