Atlanta Archdiocese sued in age and disability complaint

Atlanta Archdiocese FILE PHOTO

Atlanta Archdiocese FILE PHOTO

A former employee has filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta alleging that she was dismissed because of her age and the condition of her health.

Mary Elkins, 68, was fired last year after 23 years working for the archdiocese, according to the complaint. Elkins, whose last job was in events planning, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2017 and had surgery to remove part of her pancreas.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Atlanta, stated Elkins needs ongoing treatments for the rest of her life to control the growth of malignant tumors. It alleges discrimination based on her age and disability and retaliation.

After the surgery, the lawsuit alleges, her supervisor pressured her not to miss any work, although she left work for prescribed treatments and sometimes — as a result of the treatments and disease — had intestinal issues that forced her to be late.

When she informed her then-supervisor she was told, “You old timers all think you run this place. Well you don’t, and that’s going to change!” according to the suit.

In a statement, the Smyrna-based archdiocese called Elkins’ termination “an unfortunate result of the COVID crisis which has caused a reduction in force. Ms. Elkins held the position as an event planner. Her age and health condition played no role in the employment decision brought about by the pandemic.”

Elkins was terminated, effective Dec. 21, 2020 and has been unable to find work, according to the lawsuit. Since her termination, the complaint alleges she has not been considered for other jobs within the archdiocese.

Elkins was “a long-standing loyal employee of the archdiocese,” Ed Buckley, managing partner of Buckley Beal, the law firm representing Elkins, said in an interview. “... She needed some accommodation, but she was able to work and willing to work.”

Elkins says that she and four other people were fired around the same time. Of those, the complaint alleges, three were elderly, including one battling cancer; and one who was pregnant.

The lawsuit seeks, among other things, Elkins’ reinstatement with back pay, lost benefits, punitive and compensatory damages.