Michigan court rejects mental disability claim against civil rights group

By Chris Rizo | Jul 31, 2008

Michigan Supreme Court building

LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline)-A woman's mental disability claim has been rejected this week by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Patricia Brackett filed her complaint after she was reprimanded by her employer, a civil rights organization, for failing to attend a mandatory Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in 2002.

The high court ruled 4-7 that Brackett's alleged mental injuries arose from her decision not to attend the MLK celebration, and not from the actions of her employer: Focus: HOPE.

After all, the court ruled, she "accepted her position with full knowledge that she was required to attend the event."

Brackett, who worked for Focus: HOPE, initially objected to the Detroit-based organization's decision to move its 2002 Martin Luther King celebration from Detroit to Dearborn, Mich., a community she told supervisors had a history of tenuous race relations.

Court papers say she told she would be docked a day's pay, but after skipping the event the organization's co-founder and director, Eleanor Josaitis, she was docked two days of pay and had her work responsibilities reduced.

"To harbor such feelings of the past without thinking how our MLK mandatory staff development day helps to move Focus: HOPE into the future, reduces my confidence in your commitment to help us fulfill our mission statement," Josaitis said in a memo to Brackett.

In her lawsuit, Brackett claimed at in a second meeting with Josaitis her boss reiterated her disappointment and shook her finger Brackett's face, and said she did not deserve to receive a paycheck from the organization.

When asked if she was being fired, the lawsuit claimed that Josaitis shrugged her shoulders and let her out of the office. Brackett claimed the event traumatized her mentally.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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