Disabled man claims harassment at work - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

9/22/10

Disabled man claims harassment at work

LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Concerned citizens have been calling Adult Protective Services and police about a man in a wheelchair in central Lubbock, advertising for a Halloween store. What the citizens' don't know is that he wants to be there, he wants to work, and because of his limitations, he sees it as a perfect opportunity to be able to work and provide for his family.

Recently, drivers have been honking at him, calling police, and threatening to boycott the company he works for. Jamie is upset because it is a distraction for his job and his quest to lead a normal life.

He drives his motor powered wheelchair 19 blocks to work and holds up signs off 50th Street to advertise for Spirit Halloween store. Johnston's manager Grant Gassaway says he gets complaints daily. "[They say things like] you guys are wrong, this is an unjust cause, we're going to call the police and adult protective services."

There's no case for adult protective services or police because after they've talked with Johnston, they understand he's more than willing and able to do his job. Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects motor coordination, not mental health. Johnston wants people to know that he chose this job and just wants to provide for his wife and family like any other person. "Thank you for your concern, but I'm fine. I'm just happy to bring home a paycheck every week."

Even though people in the community might be concerned about Johnston's welfare, the manager says he's one of the best employees they've ever seen. "His work ethic is top notch. He's been one of the best employees we've ever had, bar none. He's completely dependable and that's what we like. He's done a great job for us."

Johnston says he gets bored when he's at home alone. His wife also has cerebral palsy and a full-time job. He told us he enjoys his independence. "Sometimes I will take the bus, but sometimes I like cruising," Johnston said.

Gassaway says above all else, Johnston wants to be treated just like anybody else. "He wants to come to the job, clock in, do the job, clock out and go home. Just like everybody, else every day."

Johnston will continue working until the seasons over, he says it makes him feel better. "I'm happy where I'm working," Johnston said.

Johnston has written a letter to the concerned citizens:

Hello, my name is Jamie, I am a 35-year-old male with cerebral palsy, and make use of a motorized wheelchair. I have been married for 14 years. For many years I have been trying to find gainful employment, but it can be difficult and frustrating.

I have been a bell ringer for the Salvation Army for about 10 years, in front of Market Street on 50th and Indiana which I really love. I also work at Goodwill.

I have recently applied at The Halloween Store as a sign holder. I appreciate them giving me the opportunity to work. For the most part people have been encouraging and supportive, and I really appreciate their support. However, they have been receiving a few complaints about me being out on the corner where I'm supposed to be, and I have been informed that it is starting to affect their business.

This is very disappointing to me. The police have been called out several times. Adult Protective Services has also been contacted. I appreciate people's concern for me and my safety; I'm just trying to do the best I can to contribute in making a living for me and my wife.

Thanks,
Jamie

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