Originally created 04/24/98

Worker disputes job loss



AIKEN -- A former Westinghouse Savannah River Co. employee says the company wrongfully fired him, and he filed a $300,000 lawsuit in Aiken County on Thursday to prove it.

Nathaniel Ritter, a black Allendale resident and former worker at the Savannah River Site, filed the suit claiming the company discriminated against him because of his race and disabilities. The suit was filed in the Aiken County Court of Common Pleas.

Westinghouse Savannah River Co. has not seen the lawsuit and had no comment Thursday, company spokesman Will Callicott said Thursday.

According to the lawsuit, Mr. Ritter was hired as an electrician at the site in 1985 and was given satisfactory evaluations.

In 1990, Mr. Ritter was diagnosed with narcolepsy, a medical disorder characterized by sudden attacks of deep sleep. He began receiving treatment for it and notified Westinghouse of his condition, but was given no assistance, the suit reads.

About the same time, Mr. Ritter's crew was given a new supervisor and Mr. Ritter was the only black person on his crew.

"Numerous statements were made by plaintiff's supervisor and co-workers that `black people will always receive special treatment because of their race' even though they don't deserve it," according to the suit.

The supervisor assigned Mr. Ritter heavier duties than the rest of the crew and denied him short-term disability leave when other workers received it for minor injuries, the suit alleges.

In 1995, Mr. Ritter began to exhibit narcolepsy symptoms while on medication, and doctors began to vary his medication. Mr. Ritter asked to be allowed to rest intermittently on the job if needed but was denied, according to the suit. Mr. Ritter was written up for sleeping on the job and sought more intensive treatment. He took intermittent medical leave, but was often called in to work, the suit claims.

He was terminated from his position in November 1996. The suit claims Westinghouse failed to reasonably accommodate his medical condition.

A lawsuit represents only one side of a case.