Aspen School District sued by former employee who was fired

Staff report

A man who once worked for the Aspen School District is suing his former employer on allegations that it ran afoul of state and federal laws when it fired him.

Donald Stalker worked as a maintenance technician at the elementary school starting in October 2014 before transferring to the high school in 2017. His suit, which was filed Monday in Pitkin County District Court, claims the high school fired him in December 2017 after he missed multiple days of work because he was afflicted with the bacterial disease E. coli.

Stalker’s suit alleges he provided the district with doctor’s notes explaining his absences that began in August 2017. His suit also said he submitted a Family Medical Leave Act request form with the district in September 2017, and returned to work in November under limitations that had him working half-days three days a week. He later received doctor’s clearance to work five days a week, with plans to resume working full time Dec. 4, 2017, according to the suit.

On Dec. 1, however, high school principal Tharyn Mullberry, transportation and facilities director Gary Vavra and then-human resources director Elizabeth Hodges told Stalker he was fired.

“Upon his termination, (the school district’s) agents informed Mr. Stalker that they needed someone in the building to work full time,” the suit says.

The suit claims the school district violated the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act by firing him because of his medical disability, and it also “interfered with Mr. Stalker’s right to be reinstated under the FMLA.” Additionally, the suit claims the district unlawfully retaliated against Stalker by not reinstating him as a full-time worker under the FMLA.

The suit was filed by Glenwood Springs attorney Ted Hess and seeks back pay and other damages.

School district officials did not comment about the suit when contacted Tuesday.