A former Wichita State University administrative assistant has filed a lawsuit in federal court accusing the university of discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The lawsuit says that Vicki Huntoon was fired from the university because of her General Anxiety Disorder after she had requested to work in a quieter department multiple times and two doctors had diagnosed the disorder.
Wichita State officials did not comment on the suit. Lou Heldman, vice president for strategic communications at WSU, said university officials were not yet aware of it.
Huntoon began working at Wichita State as an administrative assistant in 2006, receiving excellent work evaluations in the first few years of her employment, the lawsuit says.
Anxiety had been previously diagnosed, a problem that was “triggered by noisy environments with a lot of activity,” according to documents.
In 2013, Huntoon was transferred to the Office of Multicultural Affairs – now called the Office of Diversity and Inclusion – which had a “higher level of student activity and background noise than Huntoon was subjected to at any of her previous positions.”
The lawsuit says Huntoon requested transfers to other departments multiple times after her GAD symptoms were triggered by the noisy environment, and she spoke with her supervisor and human resources officers about her anxiety. She was not transferred.
Over time, her work performance slipped, and she was placed on probationary status. The suit says she was allowed telephone therapy but no other requested accommodations.
WSU required her to obtain a second opinion of the GAD diagnoses by a WSU-selected physician. The doctor confirmed the diagnosis and recommended she be transferred to another department, court documents say. Her request for a transfer was denied.
“Huntoon’s GAD symptoms intensified and remained high until the date that WSU fired her,” the lawsuit says.
Huntoon’s attorney, James Kaup, would not comment, saying “the complaint speaks for itself.”
At this time, Huntoon is not seeking punitive damages. The lawsuit asks for costs, interest and attorneys’ fees. It also leaves open the possibility of her employment being reinstated.
Two former high-profile employees sued the university earlier this year on employment-related issues.
In March, Wade Robinson, former vice president for student affairs, sued the university and president John Bardo over alleged violations of Title IX, a federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination.
In the suit, Robinson says he was retaliated against for voicing concerns about how notification of a rape accusation with a student-athlete was handled, and it eventually cost him his job.
Later in March, WSU’s former chief information officer, James Pulliam, sued the university under Title VII, saying he was fired in retaliation for objecting to racially and sexually explicit language used by David Wright, the university’s chief data officer.