Paul Green was not in the best of health in 2009 when he was hired as a bus monitor by Dallas County Schools. He had been battling colon cancer for more than a decade and, several years before, had been diagnosed with hypertension and congestive heart failure.
As a result, he took a slew of medications including several -- Coreg, Diflucan, Bactrim, and Acyclovir -- that act as diuretics or, as Green's lawsuit describes it, "any excess fluid in the body is flushed through urination, causing the user of the medication to feel a sudden and immediate urge to urinate."
That's what happened during an evening bus run on August 30, 2011, when, after the bus was cleared of children, Green asked driver Carlos Barrillo to stop at a gas station so he could go to the bathroom. "Barrillo repeatedly and angrily denied Green's pleas to stop, all while passing up several convenience stores and other public restrooms," according to the suit, causing Green to urinate on himself.
Green placed a towel in his sweat pants to absorb the urine while Barillo continued on to pick up a wheelchair-bound child. Embarrassed, Green stayed back until Barillo told him to strap the wheelchair into the bus, which he did, careful not to touch the child.
Green reported the incident to DCS Area Director Dennis Johnson, who said he would investigate and transferred Green to another bus. A week later, Green underwent colon cancer surgery that kept him out of work for six days. A week after his return, Johnson gave Green a notice of termination:
On Wednesday, August 31, 2011, you engaged in unprofessional conduct while on a DCS school bus. In your written statement, you admit to urinating on yourself and in a water bottle while onboard the school bus. Although no students were onboard the bus at the time of the incident, you failed to protect the health and safety of the students boarding at your next scheduled stop from exposure to body bluids, by continuing to perform your functions as a bus monitor after the incident.
Green filed a grievance with DCS transportation director Aaron Hobbs, who upheld the firing, as did Superintendent Rick Sorrells and the Dallas County Schools Board of Trustees. The Texas Workforce Commission, after initially denying Green unemployment benefits because he was fired for misconduct, determined upon appeal that there was insufficient evidence that Green had done anything wrong.
According to the lawsuit, DCS was well aware of Green's condition and fired him in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, since Green, 57 at the time of his firing, was replaced with someone 20 years younger.
DCS spokesman David Escalante declined to comment, but in a response filed in court, the district contends Green's termination was justified:
Contrary to Plaintiff's assertions, Plaintiff's bus driver did not refuse to stop to allow Plaintiff to use the restroom; rather Plaintiff indicated that he could wait until the next stop to relieve himself. After indicating he could wait, Plaintiff requested that the bus driver pull the bus over to the side of the road. After the bus driver pulled the bus over to the side of the road, Plaintiff emptied a plastic water bottle out of the door and began urinating in it. After urinating on himself and in a plastic water bottle, Plaintiff made inappropriate and racially charged statements toward the bus driver. Once they reached their destination, Plaintiff assisted with securing a wheelchair despite the fact that he had not sanitized his hands. Upon returning to the service center, he failed to report the incident to Defendant (Dallas County Schools); rather, the bus driver reported the incident.
The suit was filed in June. It was scheduled to go to trial in 2013 but, per a June 21 order by U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay, the parties will participate in mediation on April 8.