“The doctor said if I wanted to go back to work I’d have to use a motorized scooter,” she explained. She returned to work shortly after but was transferred to the town’s middle school, she said, because the school was better suited to accommodate her mobility needs.
It turned out the middle school did not better accommodate her needs, she explained. After a series of related incidents and inter-district complaints, she was informed by the school district that her employment contract would not be renewed for the 2009-2010 school year.
Osnowitz was then forced, she said, to file a formal complaint with the state Division on Civil Rights in February 2009.
“I didn’t file a complaint to be nasty,” she said. “To let somebody go because you filed a complaint for not complying with disability requirement is the most horrible thing you can do. I was totally powerless no matter what I tried.”
On Tuesday, the Division on Civil Rights announced that the board will be required to pay Osnowitz $83,000 to resolve the lawsuit that began just over three years ago. They will have to pay $7,000 to the state, according to a press release from the state Attorney General’s office.
The lawsuit alleged that the board failed to accommodate Osnowitz’s disability, and proceeded to allegedly decline to renew her contract in retaliation for her complaint, according to the release. The allegations were made under a prior Board of Education and administration than the one currently in place.
“We acted in the best interest of the taxpayers of the school district,” School Superintendent John Fauta told the Reporter Tuesday. “It was economically sound for us to settle this case.”
“It’s not about the money,” Osnowitz said. “I really hope they learn from what they did.”
For more details on the settlement and Osnowitz’s story, read this weekend’s edition of the Hudson Reporter. -- Gennarose Pope