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Former Kennedy Krieger Institute employee claims discrimination

Kennedy Krieger Institute.(Flickr / -ted / “Kennedy Krieger Institute” / CC BY 2.0 / cropped, rotated and resized)

Kennedy Krieger Institute.
(Flickr / -ted / “Kennedy Krieger Institute” / CC BY 2.0 / cropped, rotated and resized)

A former switchboard operator for the Kennedy Krieger Institute has alleged her supervisors created an “abusive” work environment by insulting her race, national origin and disability.

Sara Alonso also claims the Baltimore-based nonprofit failed to provide her with reasonable accommodations to manage the symptoms of her lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, according to a lawsuit filed last week in Baltimore City Circuit Court.

Alonso, who is Hispanic and of Mexican origin, was hired in February 2013 to work as a switchboard operator, secretary and translator in KKI’s care management department, the complaint states. Shortly after she was hired, Alonso told her supervisors that she would need frequent breaks and time off for doctor’s appointments, the complaint states.

But Alonso’s supervisors told her not to bring her medication to work and denied her requests for time off as well as for an ergonomic chair to help minimize her joint pain and inflammation, the complaint states.

Ayla Harris, one of Alonso’s supervisors, also ridiculed Alonso in conversations and on social media, the lawsuit claims.

“Ms. Harris subjected Plaintiff to a hostile work environment by, among other things, mocking her accent (sometimes multiple times a day), claiming she could not understand what Plaintiff was stating, and accusing Plaintiff of speaking ‘Spanglish’ when they had detailed conversations,” the complaint states.

After Alonso complained to human resources, she alleges the organization retaliated by assigning her new job duties that exacerbated her disabilities. In June 2014, she took short-term disability leave, and within a month was placed her on long-term leave, according to the complaint.

Alonso is seeking compensatory damages of more than $75,000 and unspecified punitive damages, as well as an order that would force KKI to reinstate her. She is represented by Paul V. Bennett and Jeffrey J. Sadri of Bennett & Associates PC in Annapolis.

The case is Sara Alonso v. Kennedy Krieger Institute Inc., 24C15003659.

About Lauren Kirkwood

Lauren Kirkwood covers the business of law beat at The Daily Record.