Dumb Lawsuit of the Day, Or Is It?

Ken AshfordCourts/LawLeave a Comment

One should always be careful when mocking a lawsuit.  Several years ago, late-night comics joined the rest of the nation in mocking a woman who sued for McDonald's for "hot coffee".  On its face, the suit sounded ridiculous, but in reality, it was not.

So with that caveat in mind, I turn your attention to this:

Retired Ohio teacher Maria Waltherr-Willard is suing her school district, claiming it discriminated against her because of her disability — a debilitating phobia of young children.

Waltherr-Willard, 61, claims in her lawsuit against the Mariemont school district that for 35 years, she taught Spanish and French to high school students in the system. But when she helped fight the district's decision to cut French class in favor of an online course, officials retaliated by reassigning her to younger students at a middle school in 2009, ignoring her hypertension, specific phobia and general anxiety disorder, Waltherr-Willard says, according to Cincinnati.com.

She claims that district officials were previously sympathetic and aware of her medically diagnosed pedophobia.

While the public and a number of commentators have taken to ridicule the teacher and her lawsuit, Dr. Caleb Adler, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati, says it's a serious phobia, as the illness causes Walterr-Willard to experience stress, anxiety, chest pains, vomiting, nightmares and high blood pressure when she's near young children.

I don't doubt that pedophobia is a serious phobia.  And I am sympathetic to her allegations (if they hold up) that the school district retaliated against her.  I mean, they shouldn't retalitate against her because she stood up and tried to preserve a French course.

But… really?

Does it make sense that someone with fear of children would choose teaching as a profession?  And should any employer be obligated to hire and maintain employment for someone who can't do their job because of a disability?  Does a firemen with a fear of fire have a legitimate claim against the city who hires him?

Something isn't quite right here.