An unusual jury verdict handed down Tuesday ordered the state of California to reinstate a disabled administrative law judge who lost her job when she was permanently assigned to work in Van Nuys--even though her doctor said it was too far for her to travel from her house in Northridge.
Eve Cohen, 52, alleged discrimination in a lawsuit filed against the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board when she lost her job of 18 1/2 years.
Cohen twice injured her back in 1990 and, on the advice of her doctor, requested an assignment within 30 minutes of her home. During peak traffic hours, it would take her 45 minutes to travel to the state office building in Van Nuys, where she began working in August, 1990.
After an extended leave of absence, Cohen lost her job in February, 1991.
Although state officials contended that they tried to help Cohen with the Van Nuys assignment, the Superior Court jury determined that Cohen's request had been unfairly denied.
Before the transfer to Van Nuys, Cohen had "floated" from assignment to assignment, traveling as far as Bakersfield. Testimony in the eight-day trial indicated that the appeals board had a policy against "institutionalization," or permanently assigning judges to branch offices such as those in Canoga Park and Simi Valley. Cohen contended that those offices would have satisfied her need to work closer to home.
The jury verdict also awarded Cohen $90,454 for 26 months of back pay and $10,000 for emotional distress.