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Capitol Hill aide sues Houston congresswoman for disability bias

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

A former Capitol Hill staffer is suing U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee for disability discrimination, alleging that the congresswoman from Houston ridiculed her poor vision and reading disabilities and failed to accommodate her.

Mona Floyd, Jackson Lee’s former legislative director, suffers from a vision disability called monocular vision, which causes eye fatigue and strain, headaches, poor reading comprehension and general physical fatigue.

Floyd claims the disability requires her to take periodic breaks from reading. The symptoms worsen, she says, unless she rests her eyes during the day.

Legislative directors are among the highest-ranking staff members in congressional offices, with broad responsibility to study policy issues, draft legislation and build coalitions with other members of the House of Representatives.

Floyd says Jackson Lee’s office pledged to “accommodate her disability” when she started working for the congresswoman in 2010. How­­ever, Floyd claims that Jackson Lee did nothing to ensure that Floyd could take breaks from reading throughout the day. She alleges the congresswoman piled on work that required extensive reading and hours that often stretched from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. without breaks.

According to Floyd, she was rebuffed when she asked for breaks to rest her eyes. On one occasion, Floyd alleges, Jackson Lee told her, “I don’t care anything about your disability.” On another occasion, Floyd claims Jackson Lee allegedly told her chief of staff, “I don’t give a damn about her disability.”

According to Floyd, who resigned from her position last fall, Jackson Lee’s actions run contrary to her public support of the ADA.

Floyd filed her suit in District of Columbia federal court. She is seeking back and front pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys’ fees and costs.

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