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EEOC Says Attorney Disabled by PTSD From Public Defender Job

Megan Perez was a staff attorney for the Philadelphia Public Defender’s office. Beginning in 2012, she was responsible for defending juveniles charged with sex-based criminal offenses, eventually becoming supervisor of the Juvenile Special Cases section, and then a Sexually Violent Predator specialist. She was only supposed to remain in the latter position for two years given her expressed discomfort. Two and a half years into it, she was removed for six months, but then she was again assigned to defending juveniles accused of sex-based criminal offenses.
Perez began seeing a therapist and took leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. She was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. The EEOC alleges that these disorders substantially limited one or more of her major life activities such as eating, sleeping, caring for herself, and interacting with others. Her therapist recommended that she not work in a position involving sex-based criminal offenses. Perez notified her supervisors about her therapist’s recommendations and sought a transfer to a unit not involving sex-based criminal offenses. The PD’s office agreed that she would not have to do sex-based offenses.
However, shortly before her anticipated return, the EEOC charges that the Public Defender’s office notified Perez that she was terminated because she was being placed on long-term disability and not capable of working. According to the lawsuit, she was told that the therapist’s recommendations were not definitive as her to return date. It is alleged that the PD’s office did not seek additional information from Perez or her therapist regarding her medical condition. The office is accused of failing to engage in the interactive process required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and discriminating against her based on her disability.