A woman is suing the City of Indianapolis after she was fired from her job in the magistrate court for trying to remedy complaints about a coworkers’ body odor.
The woman, Amber Bridges, had worked in the court since 2010, according to court documents. Another employee’s persistent body odor became a source of complaints from some workers in 2016, so Bridges, as lead staff at the court, notified her supervisor.
She also took action by installing air fresheners around the office. Other employees also bought and installed air fresheners to mitigate “obnoxious chronic body odor” and “improve professional demeanor and productivity.”
Bridges’ supervisor was aware of her buying air fresheners, according to court documents, and did not say she disapproved.
However, in May 2017, Bridges was told the coworker with body odor problems had filed a complaint about her for installing the air fresheners. The coworker said it created an “uncomfortable and hostile work environment” toward her.
Bridges’ supervisors also told her employees were “afraid” and she could not be trusted in a leadership role any longer. She was fired May 11.
Now, Bridges alleges in a lawsuit filed in December that she was fired for her association with someone with a disability — the coworker with body odor.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, people cannot be fired for having an association with a person with a disability. This could be a family member with a disability but also can include any association or relationship an employee has with someone with a disability.
Body odor can be considered a disability in some cases, according to the Job Accommodation Network, a resource about workplace disability issues.
Court documents state that city officials fired Bridges because her issues with the coworker “distracted from the overall professional demeanor” of the court and because she allegedly abused her supervisory powers and instigated gossip.
Bridges, in the lawsuit, instead asserts that her firing was actually because of her association with the coworker, making it unlawful under the ADA.
Bridges is seeking from the city compensation, punitive damages and coverage of her legal fees. She is also demanding the city “adopt appropriate policies related to the hiring, training and supervision of its employees.”
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