A Bank of America branch, A Bank of America branch. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

A woman who suffers from a disorder that affects concentrating, communicating and thinking has sued Bank of America, claiming that under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, she should have been given a less strenuous job when one opened up at the Farmington call center where she worked.

In her federal lawsuit, filed Feb. 7 in Connecticut, Southington resident Sarena Salmeri said the bank discriminated against her by not giving her the position in its Outbound Department. Salmeri, who was an inbound specialist, took incoming calls from customers and answered their questions regarding home equity lines of credit. She argued that her job is more frenetic and busy than working as an outbound specialist, where she would have had to contact customers to review the terms and conditions of their mortgages, among other tasks.

The lawsuit said Bank of America was obligated to give Salmeri, who has Central Auditory Processing Disorder, the job of outbound specialist since there were two vacancies in that department. The bank would have an out if the accommodation would cause the institution undue hardship, which Thomas Durkin, Salmeri’s attorney who is affiliated with The Hayber Law Firm, said it does not. Those who ended up getting the two vacant jobs are not disabled.

As of press time, Bank of America had not assigned an attorney to the case. Christopher Feeney, its senior vice president of corporate communications, declined to comment. In 2018, the American Association of People with Disabilities named Bank of America among the best places to work for disability inclusion.

But Salmeri’s lawsuit suggests otherwise. Her complaint quotes from the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission in 2002. It states: “Does reassignment mean that the employee is permitted to compete for a vacant position? No. Reassignment means that the employee gets the vacant position if s/he is qualified for it. Otherwise, reassignment would be of little value and would not be implemented as Congress intended.”

Durkin said Wednesday his client was qualified for the job of outbound specialist.

“We are alleging [the  bank] violated the ADA by not reassigning her,” he said. “The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is an interpretative guidance for the ADA.”

Salmeri, the lawsuit said, sought to work in the outbound department because, among other things, she “struggled to process the audibly-received information she obtained from customers and transcribe the information fast enough after completing phone calls” to adhere to what was required of her. She, therefore, often did not meet performance metrics, the lawsuit said.

Durkin said under the ADA, Salmeri should not have competed for the vacant job, but Bank of America insisted she do just that. But the lawsuit suggests she wouldn’t have gotten the job in any event. It states that Salmeri’s immediate supervisor, Jayme Mosier, at one point told the plaintiff during the interviewing process she would “never get that position” and to “get that idea out of [her] head.”

Salmeri worked for Bank of America for 13 months. But on June 9, 2017, the bank informed her that this would be her last day of work, and that it had placed her on a disability leave of absence.

“My client was forced on the leave,” Durkin said. “She knows if she returned to work as an inbound specialist she’d be subject to discipline if she was unable to meet the performance metrics. That was the reason she was seeking a transfer to outbound to begin with.”

Durkin said he is seeking damages in the “six figures” for his client, who currently works at a martial arts center.

Assisting Durkin was his colleague, attorney Deborah McKenna.