Worker with multiple sclerosis says state discriminated

LANSING (AP) - A state of Michigan employee who helped people get disability benefits says she was discriminated against because she has multiple sclerosis.

Becky Harte, a 39-year-old DeWitt woman who has worked for the state Department of Health and Human Services since 2000, said in court filings that she's been penalized by her managers over the last 10 years, the Lansing State Journal reported.

She also said that she was written up for taking time off to deal with her illness.

"I feel like I've lost the past 10 years of my life, and I don't know what a person does with that," Harte told the newspaper. "The state's supposed to lead by example."

In court filings, the department said Harte wasn't promoted because there were more qualified candidates and called her allegations of discrimination "speculation and conjecture."

Department spokesman Bob Wheaton said in a statement that the department "is very much committed to having a diverse workforce and providing equal employment opportunity."

Harte is seeking $1.3 million, including attorney fees, non-economic damages and more than $28,000 in wages she said she lost because of the denied promotions.

Earlier this month, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Joyce Draganchuk dismissed Harte's claims to events that happened before June 2011 because of the statute of limitations, but the judge allowed the rest of the case to proceed. A trial is scheduled Nov. 16.

Harte said she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in October 2001, when she was working as a state family independence specialist. By 2005, she was working as a disability examiner and she sought a reduced and more flexible work schedule.

Harte said her requests were stalled until she filed a grievance through her union and it wasn't until 2006 that a settlement was reached. She was transferred to an examiner position within the department's Medical Review Team, but said she didn't get a raise.

Harte has been on an unpaid medical leave since July. She said she wants to go back to work for the Medical Review Team.

Published: Fri, Oct 30, 2015