Move to Dark Office Blamed for Suicide Try
SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - A guidance counselor claims in court that Brigham Young University made him try suicide by moving him to a windowless basement office, though his doctor said he needed "natural sunlight" for his depression.
Troy Selk sued Brigham Young University in Federal Court.
Selk claims the college moved him into a windowless office to accommodate another employee who had cancer, and the move precipitated his suicide attempt.
"Plaintiff became a full-time employee of defendant in 1995. Prior to that time he was a student at defendant and worked part-time during the five years of his matriculation," the complaint states.
"Plaintiff variously worked as a financial aid counselor, a school relations specialist, and a guidance counselor in the Student Academic & Advisement Services department of defendant."
Selk claims that in 2010 he gave Brigham Young "medical evidence regarding plaintiff's recent diagnosis of severe depression and adult attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder."
"The evidence included a written statement from Dr. Alan Hansen, plaintiff's primary medical provider, setting forth plaintiff's need for natural sunlight and frequent short-duration opportunities to leave his desk and walk around as an accommodation necessary for plaintiff to properly perform his employment duties," the complaint states.
The university then moved Selk into an office with a window. But in 2012, it told him he was being transferred to a different department. Selk claims he could not appeal the transfer because it was "not disciplinary in nature" and would not affect his pay or employment grade.
"Plaintiff later learned the move was made so defendant could implement an ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] accommodation for another employee ... who was suffering from cancer," the complaint states.
Selk was moved into a "windowless basement office."
"Plaintiff attempted to make the best of his new assignment but the lack of natural light severely hampered his ability to complete tasks and tended to cause him to be irritable and grumpy toward coworkers," the complaint states.
BYU then gave him a written warning, and gave him 12 weeks to show "substantial improvement" or be fired, he says.
He claims the move exacerbated his "uncontrollable high blood pressure, severe depression and anxiety, and sleeplessness."
"The shock of the final warning letter caused plaintiff to request, and receive, a leave of absence. The next day, July 4, 2013 [sic], the symptoms finally coalesced into plaintiff attempting suicide.
"The suicide attempt resulted in plaintiff being hospitalized. Upon being released from the hospital, plaintiff concluded he needed to terminate his employment with defendant for his physical and psychological well being. Plaintiff formally notified defendant of his resignation on July 18, 2013 [sic]," the complaint states.
The 2013 dates apparently are errors for 2012.
Selk says the EEOC sent him a right to sue letter in February this year.
"(T)he actions of defendant placed plaintiff in a situation where his only alternatives were to terminate his employment or face increasing risk of physical harm with a growing probability of fatality.
"Plaintiff is entitled to declaratory judgment finding that his voluntary termination of employment was a constructive discharge equivalent to an involuntary termination," the complaint states.
"Defendant knowingly and intentionally deprived plaintiff of the reasonable accommodation necessary for plaintiff to perform a job he was otherwise capable of performing. Moreover, defendant admitted to plaintiff that the change was not disciplinary in nature and was not the result of any misconduct by plaintiff. Rather, defendant inexplicably terminated plaintiff's accommodation so defendant to accommodate a different employee."
Brigham Young University, in Provo, is the nation's largest religiously affiliated university.
Selk seeks lost wages, costs and damages for disability discrimination and retaliation.
He is represented by James Harward of Sandy.