Ex-Napa County Deputy DA Wins Disability Discrimination Suit

The Napa County District Attorney’s Office wrongly discriminated against former Deputy DA Jose Rossi after his diagnosis with carpel tunnel syndrome and cancer, a jury has concluded. The jurors, who awarded Rossi $570,081 on Tuesday, also ruled that Rossi was fired in retaliation for pushing back against the county’s violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

“I have waited three long years to clear my name,” Rossi said in a statement Wednesday. “I feel vindicated and thankful. I hope this will never happen to another employee in the District Attorney’s office.”

Rossi’s attorney, Jody LeWitter, said the verdict “sends a message that those charged with doing justice and enforcing the law must do justice for their own employees and enforce the laws protecting disabled employees” and that the DA’s office “is not above the law.”

Napa’s public information officer Kristi Jourdan said the county disagrees with the verdict. She would not comment further, citing post-trial motions currently under consideration. However, during trial, the county argued that performance problems -- not Rossi’s disability -- were the real issues at hand.

Rossi had worked for the DA’s office since 1993. He was diagnosed with carpel tunnel syndrome five years ago. He asked for a series of accommodations, including reduced typing work and speech recognition software training. Instead, he was transferred to the Special Investigations Bureau which entails even more writing. The county did not adequately fulfill his request for speech recognition software training, his lawsuit claimed.

In 2014, Rossi was diagnosed with cancer and forced to take a temporary medical leave. The county then refused to let him return, he says, so Rossi took his complaint to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

Rossi’s suit alleged that it was public support for the sitting DA’s political opponent that ultimately got him fired. On that point, the jury disagreed. Jurors concluded that it was his actions at Fair Employment and Housing that prompted the termination.

Read more at the Napa Valley Register



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