Public Safety

Ex-Rockwell employee claims discrimination based on her disability

Analyst worked from home after hamstring injury in 2016

A Rockwell Collins sign is visible in November while temporary signage for Collins Aerospace, the company’s new name, covers another sign along Collins Road NE in Cedar Rapids. A former employee is suing the company, claiming discrimination, harassment and retaliation because of a disability related to a hamstring injury and chronic regional pain syndrome. She was terminated June 6, 2018. (The Gazette)
A Rockwell Collins sign is visible in November while temporary signage for Collins Aerospace, the company’s new name, covers another sign along Collins Road NE in Cedar Rapids. A former employee is suing the company, claiming discrimination, harassment and retaliation because of a disability related to a hamstring injury and chronic regional pain syndrome. She was terminated June 6, 2018. (The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — A former employee is suing Rockwell Collins, now Collins Aerospace, for discrimination, claiming supervisors told her in 2018 that her disability from a serious injury, which required her to work from home, was no longer acceptable.

Nicole Kemp, 46, of Vinton, started in March 2000 as a financial analyst and was terminated June 6, 2018, as a senior program, planning and control analyst following her disability and her need to work at home, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court.

Kemp ruptured three hamstring tendons in October 2016 that required surgical repair. She requested to work from home following the injury, which Rockwell allowed until 2018, the lawsuit states.

Kemp had a second surgery for the ruptured hamstring in March 2017 and was diagnosed with chronic regional pain syndrome — a condition that causes extreme pain, swelling, limited range of motion and physiological changes to the body part, according to the lawsuit.

Dr. Shannon Throndson, one of Kemp’s physicians, wrote a letter limiting Kemp to “work from home” positions on Oct. 27, 2017, the lawsuit shows. Kemp’s condition required Kemp to sit in a reclined position, lying on her side, with her right leg elevated. Rockwell allowed her to work from home at the time.

The company on Dec. 6, 2017, approved “intermittent” Family Medical Leave Act benefits for Kemp’s condition, according to the lawsuit. While working from home, Kemp acquired a webcam and participated in meetings by video conference.

In October 2017, Kemp was assigned a new manager, Nichole Sellner, who made comments in front of Kemp’s co-workers, suggesting Kemp would not continue to work from home while reporting to Sellner, the suit states.

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Rockwell contacted Kemp’s doctor on April 25, 2018, and requested an updated work status, according to the lawsuit. The doctor said Kemp still needed a “work at home” position.

In April 2018, Kemp was commended for “exemplary job performance” by her senior manager and also received a “pay for performance” raise during the 2017-18 fiscal year, according to the lawsuit.

On May 22, 2018, Kemp was told she must participate in a mandatory conference the next day. During the conference, a human resources employee and Sellner told Kemp she would be required to work in the office 60 percent of the time, and her only alternatives were to resign or be fired, the suit states.

The lawsuit asserts nothing in Kemp’s job description requires her presence in the office and that Rockwell allows “hundreds” of employees to work remotely.

Rockwell, in its answer to the lawsuit, deny Kemp’s allegations and any wrongdoing, including employment discrimination, and deny that her disability was a motivating factor in changing her office work requirement.

The lawsuit was initially filed in June in Linn County District Court after Kemp filed a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in August 2018, which deemed her claim warranted further investigation, the suit shows. She received her “right to sue” letter March 27.

Kemp is claiming discrimination, harassment and retaliation in violation of Iowa civil rights and discrimination because she received Family Medical Leave Act benefits of unpaid leave up to 12 weeks. She is asking for compensatory damages, including lost earnings and benefits.

Comments: (319) 398-8318; trish.mehaffey@thegazette.com

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