The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

November 18, 2013

Newspaper denies accusations of bias

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

GREENVILLE — A part-time reporter for the Greenville Record-Argus has sued the newspaper alleging it discriminated against her because of a disability and her gender.

The paper denied the accusations in a highly detailed answer to the complaint, claiming the allegations are “insulting to the newspaper’s reputation and employees.”

Heidi Warren of 269 Clinton St., Greenville, said she worked part-time for the paper for about nine months in 2000 and was rehired for a full-time position in the fall of 2011.

However, she was fired April 2, 2012, returned on a part-time basis in June 2012, and she has not been promoted to full time because of bias, she said.

The paper said in its answer filed Nov. 8 that Warren was laid off, not fired.

“(Warren) was laid off only due to her inability to perform the essential function of her position with the financial success of the newspaper in mind,” the paper said.

At the time of the layoff, the newspaper implemented a series of cost-cutting measures, which included moving from a 16,000-square-foot building to a 5,000-square-foot office at 205 Main St., eliminating the printing department, reducing the number of circulation employees and leaving some vacant positions unfilled, the paper said.

Warren suffered from thyroid cancer before her 2011 hiring and must take “life-sustaining medications for the rest of her life,” rendering her disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act, she said in her complaint filed July 29 in U.S. District Court, Pittsburgh.

The paper did not want her to become a full-time employee because of the hit it would take in its health insurance payments, she said.

The paper said her addition to the health insurance plan would have no effect, unless the company switched carriers.

“At no point in time were (Warren’s) disability or gender a consideration in her employment status with (the paper),” the Record-Argus said.

She also claimed the firing was in retaliation for her requesting accommodation because of her disability.

The paper said it has approved her every request for accommodation, by extending her probationary period when she was a full-time employee, granting her requests for reduced hours, weekends off and fewer or more assignments.

“(D)espite (Warren’s) inability to perform the functions of her position, the defendants have been remiss to fire her because they did not wish to deprive a disabled woman of her livelihood,” the paper said.

The paper said it expected it would have trouble finding someone to replace her, even though she is “performing slightly better than not having anyone employed to the position.”

The Argus, represented by Tedd C. Nesbit of Hermitage, said it has “gone above and beyond what should be required them to accommodate a disabled woman at a financial detriment to the newspaper.”

Warren, represented by Samuel J Cordes & Associates, Pittsburgh, is seeking promotion to full time, lost wages and benefits back to April 2, 2012, and damages, attorney’s fees and costs.