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September 2, 2015

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County to pay $150,000 to claustrophobic ex-employee who worked in cubicle

Clark County commissioners approved Tuesday the payment of $150,000 to settle a lawsuit by a former University Medical Center data technician diagnosed with claustrophobia, a condition that arose when she was forced to work in a cubicle.

Jayne Feshold was a data technician hired by the county-run hospital in 1999. Her suit says she "worked without incident" until May 2007. Then the hospital's medical records department was moved to a new building and she was assigned to work in an area "consisting of a small cubicle workspace instead of a more open environment."

Soon after, she began to exhibit "symptoms of severe anxiety, making it impossible for her to work efficiently." Her symptoms were later diagnosed as the result of claustrophobia, a fear of enclosed spaces. Her supervisor was sympathetic and let her work in an open area.

A new supervisor a few months later, the lawsuit says, forced her to work in a cubicle. Her anxiety grew to such a degree that she sought help at UMC's emergency room in July 2007. When she found she would not be allowed to work in an open environment, she found a new job as a guard in UMC's Labor and Delivery Unit.

Then in February 2008, she filed a request to be accommodated under guidelines of the Americans with Disabilities Act — she wanted to work in more open space. The suit says two doctors made similar diagnoses of claustrophobia.

But in March 2008, the suit says, the hospital wrote a letter to Feshold saying she did not have "a disability within the meaning of the ADA." Since she could not return to her job, Feshold was fired in April 2008.

The settlement will pay Feshold $89,012.91 and $60,987.09 to her attorney.

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