Daniel Herrmann, whose right hand, arm and leg were disabled in a car accident, had a good thing going at Merrill Lynch. The company gave him a left-handed keyboard and allowed him extra time between phone calls to type in information. He repeatedly earned bonuses for his performance in the mortgages division.
But when Bank of America took over, working conditions went south, he says in a lawsuit against the bank. He was transferred to customer relations, denied accommodations for his condition, and eventually was fired in 2010 for being too slow -- on the job and coming back from lunch. His last limp from the cafeteria to his desk took 1 minute 8 seconds too long, his lawyer said.
Now Herrmann, a 38-year-old father of two from Irwin, Pa., is going after Bank of America to secure back pay and damages for discrimination and violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, according to the complaint.
"He worked so hard to come back from such a severe injury, put himself through school, gained tons of experience, and was very good at his job," his attorney, Emily Town, told The Huffington Post.
Bank of America countered that it did nothing wrong. "Bank of America denies the allegations in the complaint and denies that it discriminated against Mr. Herrmann because of his disability," bank spokeswoman Shirley Norton wrote to HuffPost on Thursday. "Bank of America is prepared to vigorously defend this case."
In the lawsuit first reported by ABC News, Herrmann said he was told that accommodating his disability "wouldn't be fair to people with two hands" and that Bank of America didn't adhere to the Disabilities Act, which mandates workplace adjustments for qualified employees. Herrmann had a college degree, worked 13 years in banking and "thrived" in his previous assignment, ABC News reported.
Herrmann's transfer to customer service under Bank of America began a downward spiral, the suit contends. Supervisors wouldn't give him the time he needed between calls to log in information, leading to diminished performance and to being relegated to a worse shift. At that point he requested a transfer to a post that required less typing and asked for some time allowance to meet his performance goals. He was denied, according to reports.
"It fell apart quickly for something that seemed so minor," Town said to HuffPost. "...Allowing him time between phone calls would have made him more productive." Town added that the accommodations would have cost BofA "next to nothing."
Higher-ups then began harassing Herrmann for taking long lunch breaks -- even though his limp prevented him from walking quickly to and from a lunch room on another floor when the one on his floor was full. After being a mere minute or seconds late on several occasions, he was fired after returning to his desk one minute, eight seconds late in early September 2010, said Town.
The case, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, will go to mandatory mediation first, Town told HuffPost.
Herrmann has since found new employment in a similar position "and is doing better than when we first met," his attorney said.
This story was updated to include a comment from Bank of America.
The Morning Email helps you start your workday with everything you need to know: breaking news, entertainment and a dash of fun. Learn more