Originally created 12/28/96

SRS Worker files complaint for her dismissal



AIKEN - An Augusta woman says she lost her job at Savannah River Site because her employer refused to reassign her from a typist to a position that wouldn't aggravate a 1994 job-related disability.

Mattie Mitchell filed a complaint with the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission accusing Bechtel Savannah River Co. of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. The filing was verified in a Dec. 20 letter from the Human Affairs Commission to Ms. Mitchell.

Bechtel Savannah is the prime subcontractor at the nuclear plant. Ms. Mitchell, 42, was employed as a clerical worker for about six years, the last eight months as a typist. Previously, Ms. Mitchell said she was a document control worker.

Her complaint comes after an Oct. 31 incident at the site when Ms. Mitchell says J.O. Hightower, head of the site's medical department, grabbed her right arm and irritated a 1994 injury caused by an electric shock from a faulty space heater at her work site.

The former clerical worker has a workers compensation complaint still pending from the 1994 incident. Ms. Mitchell, who claims she has a permanent disability, said she was attempting to resolve her work situation at SRS when the Oct. 31 incident happened.

In her complaint to the commission, Ms. Mitchell stated, "My physician and I requested a reasonable accommodation numerous times. However, on the above date, instead of letting me work, the respondent rudely and hastily ordered me to leave the work site."

At Ms. Mitchell's request, a summons to answer a civil claim for injuries suffered during the Oct. 31 incident was issued to Dr. Hightower. A Feb. 10 hearing is scheduled at the New Ellenton Magistrate Court.

Ms. Mitchell is seeking to recover $1,089 from Dr. Hightower to pay medical bills, court documents show.

SRS spokesman Dean Campbell declined to discuss the matter. "We haven't seen any of those documents and can't comment on them," he said.

Ms. Mitchell said after the confrontation with Dr. Hightower, she began experiencing severe pain as she drove from the site. Guards at a gate checkpoint called an ambulance, which took her to University Hospital in Augusta.

Emergency medical records state Ms. Mitchell was treated and evaluated for shoulder strain and a bruise on her forearm. The records also state that her right arm appeared tender but not swollen and her shoulder had a full range of motion.

On Nov. 9, Ms. Mitchell returned to University Hospital complaining of severe right shoulder pain. Her complaints appeared consistent with bursitis, or inflammation of the shoulder, hospital reports stated.

Ms. Mitchell says she has suffered from chest inflammation and sudden attacks of pain since her original injury from the space heater. The heater blew up Mar. 24, 1994, when she was plugging it in, Ms. Mitchell said, and flames shot out of the wall socket.

She was treated on-site and sent home.