Disabled Employee Says Bank of America Fired Him for Slow Typing and Walking

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Disabled Employee Says Bank of America Fired Him for Slow Typing and Walking
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Disabled Employee Says Bank of America Fired Him for Slow Typing and Walking (ABC News)

A former Bank of America employee is suing the bank, saying he faced discrimination because his right hand, arm and leg were disabled in a car accident and he was told accommodation "wouldn't be fair to people with two hands."

For three years, Daniel Herrmann, 38, worked in customer service for Merrill Lynch and then Bank of America after BoA acquired Merrill Lynch in January 2010. He said he was fired on Sept. 20, 2010 for being one to two minutes late from his lunch break due to the fact that it took him longer to walk from the lunch room because of a limp.

The suit, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on Sept. 14, said Herrmann was "severely injured in a car accident in 1992 that left his right hand, arm and leg disabled."

His attorney, Emily Town of the law firm Stember Feinstein Doyle Payne & Kravec LLC , said Herrmann is a "hard worker who needed very minor accommodations for his obvious disabilities."

"We've filed this lawsuit because Bank of America's conduct was unacceptable and the company should be held accountable when its supervisors and managers violate the law," she said. "Dan was repeatedly told that accommodating him 'wouldn't be fair to people with two hands.' The Americans with Disabilities Act exists to ensure that disabled workers receive reasonable accommodations from their employers and are not retaliated against when they request accommodation."

Shirley Norton, a spokeswoman for the bank, said the company can't comment until it has the opportunity to review the suit.

"But I can tell you that Bank of America is committed to providing programs and accommodations to support the needs of employees with disabilities," she said.

A resident of Irwin, Pa., Herrmann was hired in April 2007 as a Client Services Associate in Merrill Lynch's Mortgage Collections Group at a bank branch in Allegheny Center Mall, according to the suit. The complaint says that he "thrived" in his job duties, which included providing customer service to mortgagors who were behind on their payments, making and receiving phone calls, and recording information in a computer system. The suit states he was also able to earn on a "regular" basis a monthly bonus if he talked to an average of five mortgagors per hour.

Herrmann was no novice at his job, having "13 years of experience in the banking industry and an associate's degree in business management and a bachelor's degree in human resources and general management," the suit states.

He said Merrill Lynch had accommodated his disability, "which substantially limited his ability to type because he was unable to use his right hand for this activity at all," the suit states. Those accommodations included providing a left-handed keyboard and "permitting him to pause between calls so he could type the required information into the computer system using just his left hand," the suit states.

But when Herrmann's job was transferred to Bank of America's customer service department, he said his supervisors no longer allowed him "to take any time between calls to enter information into the computer system," which caused him to average three or four calls per hour and precluded his ability to receive bonuses.

Because the favorable shifts were based on productivity and Herrmann struggled with his goals, he said he was assigned to a "less-favorable shift." Despite requesting being allowed to pause between calls, to be transferred to a department where less typing was involved, and to allow his performance criteria to account for the time he needed, he was refused, the suit states.

He also mentioned the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities and requires firms with 15 employees or more to provide "reasonable accommodation" to those individuals.

One supervisor responded with statements that included, "Bank of America is not going to do anything for you," and "Bank of America doesn't have ADA rules."

Another stated that accommodating for his disability "wouldn't be fair to people with two hands," according to Herrmann's complaint.

Herrmann said he complained of his supervisor's comments on an employee hotline.

Although dictation software was installed on his computer around November 2009 upon his request, he still had to pause briefly between phone calls to dictate, the suit stated.

In January 2010, managers told him he could not use the dictation program and could not pause between calls, the suit stated.

Around that time, he began to receive warnings for returning late from lunch break. He claims his limp caused him to walk more slowly from the lunchroom on a different floor in the building if the closest lunchroom was fully occupied, the suit states.

As he continued to ask for accommodations, he eventually received six warnings for being seconds or minutes late from his lunch break and was eventually fired.

Herrmann filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on March 18, 2011, which issued a "notice of right to sue" on June 18, 2012.

Herrmann is suing Bank of America with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act for failing to provide requested accommodations and failing to engage in an "interactive process" for those adjustments, as the law describes.

His demands include unspecified back pay, front pay, and compensatory, consequential and punitive damages.

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