Epileptic Worker Sues: Says Bosses Called His Seizure 'Break Dancing,' Then Fired Him

epileptic worker suesA janitor with epilepsy is suing his former employer in Mississippi for violating federal law after he was fired for having an epileptic seizure while working, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this week in federal court.

Michael A. Hernandez was working for Harrison County as a floor technician in July 2009 when he had an epileptic seizure at a county run retirement home. Following treatment at local hospital, Hernandez returned to work the next day only to be fired, say the documents, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The dismissal was in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against workers because of a disability or a perceived disability, the lawsuit says.

The suit further states that Hernandez was derided after the episode by a supervisor who jokingly referred to his involuntary convulsions as "break dancing."

"He [is] an epileptic and he had a seizure while at work," Hernandez's attorney, Louis H. Watson, told AOL Jobs.

"They kind of ridiculed him and made fun of him and said he was 'break dancing,' " Watson said. "That's hard to believe but that's what they did ... and then they fired him."

Unlike some epileptics, Hernandez can't sense that a seizure is about to occur. "In my case, I never know it's coming, I just fall out," he said. "It's like a fish out of water, I'm told."

Speaking by phone from Hawaii where he now lives, Hernandez, who has been doing janitorial work since he was 12, said that he was hired because of his experience and that the hiring manager was aware of his epilepsy.

On the day that he was fired, Hernandez was called into a supervisor's office and was told "things just aren't working out," he said.

"[But] I knew it was because of the seizure."

The county's attorney, Tim Holleman, said that Hernandez's claims are baseless and that the county intends to vigorously fight the lawsuit.

Hernandez, who was hired in April 2009, was still within the six-month probationary period granted to all newly hired employees to determine if they are suitable for continued employment, Holleman told AOL Jobs.

"He had not been a productive employee. He had problems with some other folks," Holleman said.

Hernandez was hired with knowledge that he was an epileptic, Holleman said. "If we were going to discriminate [against him], we wouldn't have hired him."


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keith

It's not surprising...I have two undergrad degrees and discrimination has happened frequently. I was a manager for a contractor with a Big 3 Automaker and I interviewed for a new position. All went well in the interivew, until I pulled out that state ID, and I heard the manager in panic. "Oh My God! There's something wrong!!!!" She didn't know that I could hear through those cheap walls and I heard her say DUI. She openly rationalzed that a drunk driver shouldn't be there because of the cost to the group and came back to speak with me. I stayed polite and let her know I had epilepsy, nothing else, and she freaked even more. The epileptic master status took over from there and It just got worse. My online account with the organization was deleted and they sent a message that they will never hire again.

February 10 2013 at 5:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ccccccc222

AS SOMEONE WITH EPILESPY, I WOULD PREFER TO BE REFERRED TO BY MY NAME NOT BY MY CONDITION. SOMEONE ONCE ASKED ME IF I WAS AN EPILEPTIC, I SAID "NO, I'M A PERSON WITH EPILEPSY." I KNOW YOU MEANT NO HARM, IT IS JUST FOR FUTURE REFERENCE. I THINK MR. HERNANDEZ WOULD FEEL THE SAME REFERRED TO BY HIS NAME. NOT BY HIS NEUROLOGICAL CONDITION. THANK YOU. AND I HOPE HE WINS. I HOPE HE SUES THE STUFFING OUT OF THEM. GETS HIS JOB BACK AND THEN QUITS. I GUESS HIS BOSS THOUGHT IT WAS REAL FUNNY TO CALL MR. HERNANDEZ'S EPISODE "BREAK DANCING."

August 31 2011 at 4:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ccccccc222's comment
JESOPH

I am in agreement, except in the case of the guy who "freaked out on crack" in the men's room at my college. It took weeks to convince my friends that was me. I would have preferred the E-word.

January 19 2012 at 6:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to JESOPH's comment
JESOPH

And for those people like badhog8, who need a little more info, I have NEVER used crack. The response was typical of someone witnessing an epileptic seizure, and yours is typical of the discrimination I've lived with all my life.

May 30 2013 at 5:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
JESOPH

In a related incident, I worked 18 months on a referral from Arkansas Rehabilitation Services, and was fired, shortly after an office manager attempted to recruit me to his renovation squad. He claimed to have no knowledge of my scoliosis or seizure disorder, though stated plainly on my original application. I was listed as being "unable to perform the work expected", which was construction, on a data entry position.

August 30 2011 at 5:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Wucknee Jones

These guys make a lot of sense dude.
www.total-privacy.cz.tc

August 29 2011 at 6:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jbbrandt1

This is an horrific telling of the times we live in. As much as I don't want the government running everything, the mangement level of this ompany should be fired ewithout a penny coming to them.

I fortunately grew up in the 40's and suffered seizures from elementary school through colleg graduating in 61. I received nothing but love and compassion.

To the gentleman who suffered, be assured you are far better person than the people who THINK they are so much better than their fellow manm but without judging, they have a lot more to learn, including that we who have epilepsy have a higher intelligence than many people. I also believe these people broke the law. God's blessings for you and yours. Be expectant that God has some excitingly great things for you. I believe He blessed you by removing you from that environment.

August 29 2011 at 1:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mike

As a person who suffers from epileptic seizures, I certainly would not want to get fired for this. Sounds like the employer was ignorant of the situation. This is just SAD !!!!

August 28 2011 at 10:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Ol Bob

Caesar and Alexander the great had epilepsy. I wonder who mocked them. Or, were people back then more civilized than we? Or, maybe punishment back then was more sensible than ours.

August 28 2011 at 10:12 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Ol Bob's comment
JESOPH

Yeah, they were publicly flogged or fed to the lions. Or both.

August 30 2011 at 5:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Nancy

What a cold hearted employer..

August 28 2011 at 10:04 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
THERESA H.

so sad.

August 28 2011 at 10:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
earthmoverd8r

Mr. Hernandez, I hope that you are successfull in your lawsuit, these people that make fun of the disabled should be nade disabled. Then they will know what it is to be ridiculed. I hope this manager of yours gets his at the hands of the judge. I am on your side.

August 28 2011 at 10:03 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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