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NJ Woman Claims Employer Punished Her For Reporting Traffic-Related Anxiety

CHERRY HILL, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- A New Jersey woman has filed a lawsuit, alleging that her commute home made her sick.

As CBS 2's Don Champion reported, the woman claimed her bosses fired her after her doctors diagnosed her with a unique disability.

Drivers tend not to enjoy the daily grind of traffic, with the stop-and-go, the honking, and the gridlock.

"You've got to do what you've got to do to work through it," one commuter said.

"It's part of life," another said.

It may be a fact of life, Andrea DeGerolamo of Berlin, New Jersey, said her commutes made her sick. She has filed a lawsuit, which was recently moved to U.S. District Court in Camden.

DeGerolamo was a marketing coordinator for Fulton Financial Corporation when her doctor diagnosed her with general anxiety disorder and depression, the lawsuit alleged.

She claimed the doctor said her condition was "aggravated by heavy traffic."

Thus, DeGerolamo has sued her former employer claiming it refused to change her schedule so that she wouldn't have to sit in traffic.

"There's potentially a case here," said Arthur Leonard, a professor at New York Law School.

Leonard said employers are required to reasonably accommodate an employee's disability.

After telling her employer about her diagnosis, DeGerolamo claimed her boss originally accommodated her request to work shortened days between rush hours. But her lawsuit claimed that accommodation did not last very long.

The lawsuit alleged even worse. After returning to work from a medical leave, DeGerolamo was given a poor performance review, then "delegated to clerical type work" and eventually fired.

"If the work that she was doing when she came back was of the same quality of the work she was doing before she went on leave, and suddenly she gets a bad review for the same work, that would be suspicious," Leonard said.

Leonard said DeGerolamo's doctor's testimony and proof of how her company accommodated her reported disability will determine if the lawsuit stands.

Surprisingly, he said more mental disability cases like this are popping up.

"People are just more sensitive and aware to it, and the things that people might have shrugged off a generation or two ago, and say, 'Welp, you know, that's the breaks,' now they think more about it and they think, 'Well, maybe there's something wrong with me,'" Leonard said.

But experts said most disability discrimination cases like DeGerolamo's lawsuit get dismissed because of strict standards.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania-based Fulton Financial declined to comment on the lawsuit.

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