Denise Frisino, a former Seattle Public Schools teacher, will receive a $750,000 settlement for being fired from Nathan Hale High School seven years ago when she did not return to work in a classroom that was harmful to her health. Emery Reddy represented Frisino and helped resolve the case in conjunction with attorneys at Schroeter Goldmark & Bender. Read the full story in the Seattle Times.
Frisino, a drama and language instructor, spent 14 years working for Seattle Public Schools. Her health problems began in 2000, when Frisino developed respiratory illness at Hamilton International Middle School. The district provided an air filter and asked custodians to do some extra mopping of her classroom floor, but this offered little relief. Then in 2004 Frisino agreed to transfer to Nathan Hale, but her severe headaches and asthma symptoms only worsened. Physicians determined that the teacher’s health issues were caused by mold in the classroom, and Frisino requested another transfer. When additional cleanup attempts in the room failed to alleviate her health problems, Frisino declined to come to work and was fired by the school district.
The following excerpt from Emery Reddy’s News & Updates page reports developments in the Frisino case from March of 2011; additional photos of classroom mold, testimonies from parents and physicians, and reports of harmful classroom conditions were also reported by KOMO News and the Seattle PI:
Michelle Esteban of KOMO News reported on November 29, 2004 on photos of mold that a Nathan Hale parent provided. Esteban notes, “Some of the ceiling tiles are peeled away and, underneath, a black mold.” The article also described Frisino’s reaction as “severe–everything from a hacking cough, swollen nose, ringing ears and now respiratory complications.”
Frisino was not the only person put in jeopardy by the continuing mold problem at Nathan Hale. Seattlepi.com reported on December 7, 2004 that Jennifer Aspelund pulled her son out of Nathan Hale because of the threat the mold posed. Her son, North Aspelund Jr., was “diagnosed with leukemia at age 4, relapsed four years later, then endured a bone marrow transplant and the removal of a cancerous kidney.” After detecting a an odd smell in the library, officials confirmed an “area above a northeast stairwell contain[ed] Stachybotrys atra, a greenish-black mold.” His mother noted they never would have enrolled North in Hale had they been aware of the mold problem.
Denise Frisino claimed that the district discriminated against her by refusing to take adequate steps to accommodate her health needs. A King County judge initially threw out her case on grounds that the district provided “reasonable accommodations,” but the Court of Appeals subsequently ruled that school districts should have done more to protect both its teachers and students, and requested that Frisino’s case go to a full trial. This led to the current settlement.
The Washington Employment Attorneys of Emery Reddy are committed advocates of workers like Frisino, and defend the rights of those who experience employment discrimination or other violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Contact us today for a free consultation.