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Even celebrities can face disability discrimination on the job

Actress Jennifer Esposito, a series regular on the CBS hit show “Blue Bloods,” suffers from celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that prevents the absorption of certain nutrients. It can cause symptoms ranging from diarrhea to fatigue, weakness, and malnutrition. Her doctor has recommended she work a reduced schedule, but CBS allegedly refused to allow that.

She recently collapsed on set, which apparently prompted CBS to place her on indefinite, unpaid medical leave and to write her character out of the show — at least temporarily. According to Esposito, CBS also implied that she was not truly ill and staged her collapse in a scheme to get a raise.

That allegation aside, The New York Post quotes CBS as responding that the actress “informed us that she is only available to work on a very limited part-time schedule. As a result, she’s unable to perform . . . her role, and we regretfully had to put her character on a leave of absence.”

In Esposito’s perception, she has essentially been fired in retaliation for requesting a reasonable accommodation for her disability — a shorter schedule — which would generally be considered disability discrimination. She also claims that CBS is blocking her from accepting other work.

“It’s been almost two months without bringing me back to work + keeping Me from working anywhere else! Absolutely shameful behavior,” she recently Tweeted.

The actress and her attorney have refused to comment on the allegations. However, sources have apparently told The New York Post that, while a disability discrimination lawsuit is a possibility, the actress is inclined to resolve the dispute outside of court. She is said to be negotiating with CBS for her character to be reinstated with an accommodation for her disability.

Because Hollywood casting choices are largely subjective, actors and actresses often have a difficult time proving discrimination claims. Esposito is apparently popular enough that her dismissal has prompted a great deal of fan support and even a Change.org petition. Even so, actors with large fan bases can be fired for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are honest.

Do you think Esposito has a legitimate disability discrimination claim?

Sources:

  • The New York Post, “Esposito wants back to ‘Blue’,” Oct. 25, 2012
  • WPTV TV NewsChannel 5, “Jennifer Esposito’s fans lobby for Blue Bloods return,” Oct. 25, 2012

Our firm represents people suffering from disability discrimination in the workplace. For more information, please see our website.

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