State College

Employee files suit against State College Borough Water Authority

The State College Borough Water Authority is pictured.
The State College Borough Water Authority is pictured.

A State College Borough Water Authority employee filed a lawsuit Friday against the authority in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Jason Richard, of Lemont, contends that the water authority “discriminated and retaliated” against him due to a learning disability, according to court documents.

The suit claims the water authority is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

According to court documents, Richard has worked for the water authority since 2003 and has a learning disability that makes it difficult for him to take tests.

In February 2016, Richard was called into a meeting that he assumed was about an assistant supervisor position that had become available. He had been told for years that he would be the next supervisor of the meter shop and had received training for the position, according to court documents.

Instead he received a job in backflow prevention while a new hire was given the department head position, the documents state.

According to court documents, Richard approached Brian Heiser, the water authority’s assistant executive director, and asked why a new hire had been given the position and why there were no interviews or job postings for it.

Heiser allegedly said the new hire had a college degree and that he didn’t have to explain why there was no job posting, according to court documents. Richard replied that over the previous several years people had moved up to new positions in three departments and none of them required a college degree.

The following day, Richard was informed by Executive Director John Lichman that the job description had been rewritten to require a college degree, according to court documents.

Richard’s supervisor, Garth Brown, would allegedly call Richard names and said that he would make sure Richard and another employee, who had the same learning disability, would not get promoted, according to court documents.

Richard filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge alleging disability discrimination in June.

The suit claims Richard received disciplinary action for not being trained properly in backflow procedures as retaliation for filing the EEOC charge.

He contends in the suit that he was retaliated against for making the charge, claiming that Brown “made a number of retaliatory comments toward Richard,” according to documents.

The suit claims that Richard took that information to the board, but “nothing was done.”

Lichman and Heiser allegedly retaliated against Richard after he complained about the discrimination, according to court documents.

The suit states that Richard “never had disciplinary action nor a negative performance review until filing his EEOC charge.”

The EEOC issued Richard a right to sue letter on Nov. 22, the suit states.

Richard, who is still employed at the water authority, is receiving treatment for stress and anxiety because of the discrimination and retaliation, according to court documents.

Richard is seeking $150,000 in equitable relief and damages, according to court documents.

Lichman declined to comment.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz