NAU professor claims she was treated differently due to her disability.
Kathleen Ganley, a professor at Northern Arizona University’s Phoenix Biomedical Campus, has filed a lawsuit against the school alleging disability discrimination. Ganley is also the director of the HonorHealth/NAU Residency in Neurological Physical Therapy. The case was filed in federal court late last month.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and guarantees equal opportunities those with disabilities in the areas of employment, transportation, public accommodations, state and local government services, and telecommunications. Title 1 of the Act is designed to addressed employment specifically and “prohibits covered employers from discriminating against people with disabilities in all employment-related activities, including hiring, pay, benefits, firing and promotions.”
In Ganley’s suit, the professor claims her supervisor “harassed and treated her differently than other employees” after her disability progressed and she began to visibility show signs of it. She also claims the same supervisor “disclosed private information about her health to other employees” and that she was “wrongfully demoted from her associate dean position.”
Court documents specifically state, “NAU harassed and ultimately demoted Ganley because she had a known disability and medical condition. Her supervisor disregarded requests to accommodate her disability and directly tried to prevent Ganley from being promoted to the associate dean of Health and Human Services.”
Ganley secured the position despite this, but she says that her supervisor then “disclosed information about her disability and discredited her reputation from 2018 to 2020.” She also claims to have learned the same individual was disclosing information about her physical therapy appointments with others at the institution, which is a direct violation of HIPAA law. And she says that this person was using false information about her medical condition in order to get her kicked out of the position. Ganley was demoted after being told that cuts are being made across campus because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which she believes was just a guise for being able to take her out of her role.
The professor is not asking for a specific amount of recovery but is requesting instead that the damages be determined at trial. She’s also asking for her attorney fees to be paid and an undisclosed amount of compensatory damages for “emotional distress as proven at trial.”
“The continuous harassment was extremely stressful and negatively affected Plaintiff Ganley’s neurological disability and mental health,” Ganley’s attorneys wrote in the legal complaint, adding, “The intentional discrimination caused her a significant loss of wages due to the demotion in addition to emotional distress, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and damage to her reputation.”
In 2020, a lawsuit was filed also against the Arizona Board of Regents, alleging that the universities it oversees, including the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University, refused to refund the cost of room, board and other campus fees to students for the spring 2020 academic semester after the pandemic forced the campuses to close. However, the case was eventually dismissed.