NEW ORLEANS – Disabled man Ryan Fink has filed a lawsuit against St. Berbard Parish, claiming it violated the American Disabilities Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. – and also accused the parish of interfering with his substantive and procedural due process property rights. The complaint was filed earlier this spring in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Fink was hired as the director of the TV and Film Office for the Parish in 2008. He went on a three-month leave in 2015 after he was diagnosed with spinal and muscular strength injuries. While his physician gave him the green light to return to work, he also gave the plaintiff instructions not to lift, carry, push or pull any items weighing more than 10 pounds.
Fink’s working relationship with the company declined after his qualified assistant, who helped him lift and carry equipment, was laid off. The plaintiff alleged Chief Administrative Officer Ronnie Alonzo never replaced the assistant despite Fink’s requests.
The parish established new regulations that impacted Fink as he was informed he was a civil service employee in January 2017. That same month, Leo Murphy was hired as an assistant who Fink described as incapable. Meanwhile, Alonzo allegedly refused to replace Murphy with a qualified assistant as Fink stated he worked hours he was never compensated for. He pointed out in the lawsuit he worked 200 unpaid hours from May 2016 until he was fired in April 2017.
When terminated, Fink stated he was first written up for “job related deficiencies, which were themselves attributable to Alonzo’s failure to accommodate plaintiff’s disability,” according to the lawsuit. Fink was fired roughly a month after the disciplinary action.
The plaintiff stated he was never given an opportunity to state his case concerning his performance in a pre-deprivation hearing, and added the parish still has equipment valued at more than $5,000 that belongs to him.
Fink said he was deprived of his liberty and property rights granted under the Fourteenth Amendment. His case was later heard by the Personnel Board of St. Bernard Parish that would decide if he was unlawfully terminated when he wasn’t granted a pre-deprivation hearing.
While Fink was a classified civil servant and therefore owed protection under those rules, witnesses attended Fink’s hearing and testified how he didn’t complete his job tasks because of physical condition.
Fink seeks relief under the American Disabilities Act, stating the parish violated the act when it not only refused to accommodate him, but also didn’t ensure he wouldn’t work more than 40 hours a week. He also asked for relief as he stated the parish violated the Fair Labor Standards Act for similar reasons.
Fink also asked for relief for damages he alleges he suffered, including lost wages, physical harm, and significant mental and emotional anguish and distress.
He requested a declaratory judgment that would find the parish was incorrect when it terminated Fink without a pre-deprivation hearing, and equitable prospective and injuctive relief for the defendant to return the valued equipment, as well as an enjoinment against the defendant to pay for damages lost and attorney’s fees.