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Blea v. City and County of Denver Department of Human Services

United States District Court, D. Colorado

November 26, 2018

MARIA BLEA, Plaintiff,


          Reid Neureiter United States Magistrate Judge

         This is a discrimination case brought by Maria Blea against the City and County of Denver Department of Human Services (the "DDHS") and a number of individual employees of that Department (collectively "Defendants"). The matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Dkt. #37), filed July 27, 2018, which was referred by Judge Arguello for recommendation on August 15, 2018. (Dkt. #40.)

         The Procedural Background

          Plaintiff Maria Blea filed her complaint, without the assistance of counsel, on December 27, 2017. (Dkt. #1) The next day, Magistrate Judge Gallagher issued an order directing Ms. Blea to cure the deficiency of the complaint not being in the proper form. (Dkt. #3) On January 25, 2018, Ms. Blea, still proceeding pro se, amended her complaint. (Dkt. #7). The Amended Complaint is the operative pleading in the case.

         On July 27, 2018, Defendants moved to dismiss on governmental immunity and other grounds. (Dkt. #37.) On September 17, 2018, Defendants moved to stay all discovery as well as any Rule 26 disclosures. (Dkt. #42.) The stay was granted on September 18, 2018. (Dkt. #46.)

         On November 16, 2018, the Court heard extensive argument on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. Plaintiff was present and presented argument on her own behalf.

         The Plaintiffs Allegations

         Ms. Blea was an employee in the Department of Human Services of the City and County of Denver. Her position was Accounting Tech 1. Although not detailed explicitly in her Amended Complaint, at oral argument, Ms. Blea explained that her disability is a diagnoses of multiple chemical sensitivities, meaning that she is allergic to perfumes, lotions, and fragrances. As an accommodation, she was given an office, which allowed her to work without being regularly exposed to any fragrances or lotions that her coworkers may have worn. When Ms. Blea attended meetings, she had to wear sunglasses, a mask, and gloves. When regular office events took place, Ms. Blea felt ostracized because she could not participate. She felt uncomfortable wearing her mask around her co-workers in such situations.

         Ms. Blea says she was repeatedly asked by her supervisor, Defendant Brian Yauk, what her medical condition was, which Ms. Blea felt was a violation of her medical privacy. Ms. Blea says that she was discriminated against due to her disability because she was not allowed to make up time when others were permitted make up time. Ms. Blea further alleges that in a September 2015 meeting with a Human Resources Representative, Mr. Yauk slammed his fist on the table, yelled at Ms. Blea, and called her a liar. He then "shook his closed fist" and allegedly came within inches of hitting Ms. Blea. In this meeting, Mr. Yauk allegedly said that "he could not tell if Ms. Blea was laughing or smirking" because she was wearing the sunglasses and mask that her disability required.

         Ms. Blea recounts a general pattern of unfair and unequal treatment in the assignment of work, the grant of leave, and other practices. For example, after Ms. Blea was out on leave, and upon returning to work, she alleges that her "files and e-mails had been deleted from her computer," but "no one knew what happened." As Ms. Blea says in her Amended Complaint, she "was targeted, singled out, and retaliated against on several other occasions. Each time she brought up something, it was turned around and used against her." Ms. Blea says she was "treated differently once she received her Americans with Disability Act ("ADA") accommodation." The mistreatment included assignment of additional work, lack of communication, exclusion from parties, and unfair treatment in the distribution of work. Ms. Blea says she was informed by an attendee at her ADA accommodation meeting that Defendant June Allen stated, "Do what you need to do to get rid of her [Ms. Blea]."

         Overall, Ms. Blea alleges that a hostile and discriminatory work environment was created based on her disability that was so severe that it caused Ms. Blea to no longer feel safe in the work environment. Ms. Blea developed PTSD, making her unable to return to work, which caused her to lose her employment, her house, and her ability to work.

         Ms. Blea has sued DDHS and a number of her co-workers at that Department, including Mr. Yauk, her supervisor. She has sued under what she terms the "ADA Notification Act" and alleges a claim of discrimination and for "retaliation against a person with a disability."

         The Pro Se Pleading Standard

         Ms. Blea has pled her case and argued her position without the assistance of counsel. Because she is bringing this lawsuit by herself, without an attorney, the Court must be more liberal in considering her allegations, as compared to a case where an attorney is present. In Hall v. Bellmon,935 F.2d 1106, 1110 (10th Cir. 1991), the Tenth Circuit Court of ...

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