The Herald Bulletin

November 29, 2013

Fired CATS worker sues Anderson

Shell claims ADA discrimination, political motive

By Ken de la Bastide
The Herald Bulletin

---- — ANDERSON – A city transit system worker with hearing and sight difficulties is suing to get his job back after being fired because he could not obtain a Commercial Drivers' License.

Marc Shell, who was a mechanics helper with the City of Anderson Transit System, has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana in Indianapolis saying his firing was in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

But he also contends he may have been terminated for supporting Democrat incumbent Mayor Kris Ockomon in the 2011 municipal election. Republican Kevin Smith won the election and took office in 2012. Shell was fired that year.

Shell began working for CATS in 2000 and became a full-time employee in 2008, after Ockomon was elected mayor of Anderson. His job description was as a mechanics helper, but according to the lawsuit he worked as a janitor.

He has certain cognitive disabilities as well as hearing and vision disabilities that prevented him from obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), a requirement for a mechanics helper.

In the lawsuit Shell is seeking reinstatement to his job, back pay with interest and other employee benefits, damages for emotional distress and mental anguish. Should the court rule it inappropriate for Shell to return to work for the city, he is seeking damages for lost wages as a result of his termination.

Shell’s attorney, Jeffrey Macey, said that there is currently no settlement with the city, but that a settlement conference is set for Dec. 16.

“He couldn’t do all the duties of a mechanics helper,” Macey said. “He could perform all the duties except for the obtaining of a CDL. He had been working there for 12 years.”

Most CATS employees are required to have a CDL to drive buses, but Ockomon's administration made accommodations for Shell to work without a license, he said.

Macey said both issues, the political firing and the ADA argument, are matters of dispute with the city.

“Why did they include the CDL requirement when the Smith administration took office?” he asked.

Macey said that when Smith returned to the mayor’s office in 2012 several Democrats were terminated. Some of those have filed lawsuits against the city.

“He (Shell) was a prominent supporter of Mayor Ockomon,” Macey said. “Politics was the reason for the termination. They made no effort to accommodate him under the ADA."

Ashley Hopper, Anderson city attorney, said no agreement has been reached.

“Mr. Shell was hired into the position of a mechanics helper at CATS by the Ockomon administration,” she said. “In order to fulfill his job responsibilities, he must have a Commercial Driver’s License. He was unable to obtain that license, and that was the reason for his termination.”

Follow Ken de la Bastide @KendelaBastide on Twitter, or call 640-4863.