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Former JAUNT employee accuses company of violating disability protections

A former JAUNT driver has filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against the public transportation company, alleging they violated disability protections when they fired her.

Joyce Farley, a resident of Charlottesville, filed the complaint almost a year after her employment was terminated by JAUNT on Jan. 15, 2020. Farley had worked for JAUNT since May 2017 and described it as her “dream job.”

Historically, JAUNT has provided appointment-based transportation, especially for those with disabilities, and has been included in local government plans to boost the accessibility of public transportation in the greater Charlottesville area.

According to Farley’s complaint, she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and acute anxiety order, which impacts her daily life and for which she is medicated. Farley previously notified JAUNT of her disorder, which she said meets the requirements for disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Per the ADA, a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, a record of such an impairment, or are regarded as having an impairment.

According to the narrative included in Farley’s complaint, she was transporting a client to and from a medical appointment on Jan. 7, 2020, the same day the area was hit by a snowstorm. Due to the accumulating snow and ice, many of the roads became impassable and there were many automobile accidents, Farley’s complaint reads.

While driving up a hill on Belleville Avenue, the vehicle in front of Farley’s Jaunt bus spun out of control, forcing her to stop. Farley said she did not panic and pulled the JAUNT vehicle to the side of the road and contacted a JAUNT dispatcher for assistance.

“Thereafter, once the situation was essentially resolved, and the emergency was passed, as is common with my condition, I began to experience extreme anxiety, suffering shortness of breath, tightness in my chest and elevated heart rate and blood pressure,” Farley said in her complaint.

She informed JAUNT that she was having a panic attack and requested assistance. Around an hour after she pulled to the side of the road, a JAUNT supervisor arrived and took her home.

Farley claims her anxiety attack did not impact her driving or the safety of her passenger.

On Jan. 8, 2020 Farley was put on administrative leave and terminated on Jan. 15. The termination memo details the situation and then concludes that “We have decided that it would be unsafe for [Farley] to transport clients and herself in a safe manner. If an emergency arose, JAUNT could not be certain that she would be capable of taking action to keep passengers safe.”

Farley said she is seeking $75,000 in compensation and wants to put the whole situation behind her.

“My life has been impacted financially with a big pay cut, loss of good benefits, loss of my retirement since I wasn’t employed for three years,” she said in an interview. “They took out like $4,500, impacted my ability to be in crowds of people, insecurity, and dealing with my anxiety and depression.”

A representative for JAUNT declined to comment on an ongoing legal matter.

Farley said she has not heard from the EEOC yet and does not expect to until a date is available for her case.

After the agency receives the complaint it will either accept the claim for investigation or dismiss the claim on procedural grounds. If an investigation is started, it must be completed within 180 days of the filing of a complaint.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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