More MS news articles for May 2002

Decision favors parole officer

Mon, May. 06, 2002
Associated Press

NEWTON - Three years after Rickey Yates died of complications from multiple sclerosis, his wife is pressing on with his discrimination lawsuit against the state Department of Correction.

Before he died, Yates, a former chief probation and parole officer in Newton, took his former employer to court, citing several violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

His wife, Angie, is still awaiting a ruling from the State Personnel Commission, which should come as soon as June 20.

"This consumed him," said Angie Yates, a cognitive skills teacher for inmates. "He would wake up in the middle of the night, concerned with what would happen to him. Then on May 20, 1999, he died.

"He saw no completion to this. I intend to see this to the end."

After a four-day hearing, Administrative Law Judge Beecher Gray wrote in a petition to the commission that Yates was subjected to a hostile working environment. At the top of his list was the Correction Department's decision to demote Yates without advising him of his right to appeal.

Gray recommended that Yates should be posthumously reinstated to his old position with back pay and full benefits and no break in service. He also recommended damages for providing a hostile work environment and discriminatory acts.

Rickey Yates began working for the DOC in 1987 in Boone. In 1991, he was promoted to intensive parole officer. In 1992, after he was promoted a second time, he was diagnosed with MS.

In March 1994, Yates could no longer load and unload his weapon. Two years later, he was demoted because he was not certified in firearms.

The lawsuit also claimed Yates was denied a handicapped parking space at one of the offices where he worked until the U.S. Department of Justice stepped in. In addition, Yates was denied access to voice-activation software as his MS made it increasingly difficult to type, the lawsuit alleged.

"However, we do take the Americans with Disabilities Act very seriously, and if we determine that anyone in the DOC did something wrong regarding Mr. Yates, we would consider disciplinary actions," DOC spokeswoman Pam Walker said.