More MS news articles for July 2001

U.S. appeals court orders discrimination suit to be reopened

Last modified at 3:23 a.m. on Saturday, July 7, 2001
By Robert Boczkiewicz
Special to The Capital-Journal

DENVER -- A fired investigator of the Kansas Department of Corrections has been given another chance to prove his claim that his superiors discriminated against him because he has multiple sclerosis.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week instructed a lower court in Topeka to reopen the lawsuit of Steve E. Frazier and reconsider his claim that the KDOC violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Frazier, of Topeka, claims that the department violated the law by not accommodating his disability so that he could remain employed. He worked in the KDOC's central office when he was fired in 1994.

Senior U.S. District Judge Sam Crow granted a summary judgment in favor of the department. The Denver-based appeals court upheld that 3-0 in a 38-page decision.

But the judges also ruled that the case must be reopened for Crow to consider a provision in the law that he didn't consider.

The judges rejected the KDOC's contention that it was immune from the lawsuit.

The department head, Charles E. Simmons, said he fired Frazier because he was unable to perform his duties due to his disability.

Frazier unsuccessfully asked the KDOC to restructure his job or assign him to a vacant position so that his disability wouldn't interfere with his work. He had worked for the state in law enforcement jobs for 17 years.

Department administrators said they didn't consider him for any other law enforcement-type job because he had said he couldn't perform that type of work. The KDOC didn't consider him for other jobs because the administrators said Frazier didn't have the requisite skills.

"They said, 'You can't do any job (within the KDOC)' and they fired him," Frazier's attorney Kirk W. Lowry said Friday. Lowry works for the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center.

KDOC spokesman Bill Miskell said there aren't many jobs in the department that don't require law-enforcement functions, such as using a weapon or restraining inmates, functions that Frazier was unable to perform. Frazier contended those functions aren't essential for some KDOC jobs that he was qualified for.

"The department is supportive of the ADA and will follow the ADA," Miskell said.