Lawsuit claims Providence eliminated woman’s job while she was on medical leave

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – A former administrative assistant under then-Providence Mayors David Cicilline and Angel Taveras has filed suit against the city for not allowing her to return to work after she went on medical leave with breast cancer.

In a lawsuit filed in R.I. Superior Court on June 12, Deborah Blitz claims the city violated the state’s Fair Employment Practices Act, Civil Rights for People with Disabilities Act and Civil Rights Act by eliminating her job while she was on a leave of absence last year.

“Based on more than 10 years of administrative work that plaintiff performed for the city, plaintiff was more than capable of being cross-trained to work in any clerical position within the city,” the suit states.

Blitz is seeking unspecified damages from the city. She previously filed a complaint against the city with the R.I. Commission for Human Rights last year, but then chose to take her complaint to court, according to Carly Iafrate, her attorney.

A spokesman for Mayor Jorge Elorza said the city has not been served with the lawsuit.

Blitz is well-known in East Side political circles.

Payroll records show she was among Cicilline’s first hires after he became mayor in 2003. When he left City Hall following his election to Congress in 2010, she remained on Taveras’s staff. She was a supporter of Brett Smiley’s campaign for mayor in 2014 and later helped Elorza after Smiley dropped out of the race.

According to the lawsuit, Blitz was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2014 and went on leave to undergo treatment a month later. The suit states that her leave of absence was extended in December 2014 until June 17, 2015. The city informed Blitz that her job was being eliminated in May 2015.

The suit states that Elorza was aware of Blitz’s condition.

In the suit, Blitz contends that the city hired a consultant to study 450 city jobs and make recommendations for cost savings, but the review suggested clerical workers should be cross-trained so they could work in multiple departments. At least one of the city employees whose job the study said should be eliminated was not terminated, according to the lawsuit.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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