A.G. Edwards office hit with $1.25M claim

By John Downey | Charlotte Business Journal

Former A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. Charlotte branch manager wins FMLA lawsuit with Josh Van Kampen

The former Charlotte branch manager for A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. has won a $1.25 million arbitration award from the company, after claiming he was demoted and forced to resign following psychiatric treatment in 2001.

The award was made for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Families with Medical Leave Act.

The arbitration claim says Don Allen was demoted and forced to resign because he suffered from bipolar disorder. It gives the following account:

Edwards hired Allen as its local branch manager in 1989. What started as a two-employee office grew to a staff of almost 50 by the time he left in 2001.

Allen had suffered from bipolar disorder for more than 20 years, the document states. In late 2000 and early 2001, his condition became markedly worse.

In its filings, Edwards said that by March 2001, Allen’s conversations made little sense and he would rail against the company. In May 2001, he took a leave of absence to get treatment. His lawyer, Josh Van Kampen of Fosbinder & Van Kampen in Charlotte, says Allen was open about his need for treatment.

When he returned to work in June, his doctor cleared him to return to his job as manager. But Edwards made him a financial consultant.

His regional manager said “he would need a ‘wait and see’ period before returning (Allen) to work in management,” Allen’s complaint stated. The regional manager put him off whenever he tried to talk about returning to a managerial role.

Edwards denied it discriminated against Allen. It contended his title, “co-manager not in charge,” meant he had not been taken out of management. It also asserted Allen did not qualify as disabled or as having a serious illness, as defined by the two federal laws.

Allen sued the company in 2003. A federal judge sent the case to arbitration in 2004. Sixteen days of hearings were conducted from January through June.

A three-person arbitration panel decided the case June 23, and its signed decision was published in late July.

“It is unusual to get such a large decision in a disabilities cases,” Van Kampen says, noting it is the largest award his firm has received in an action involving the Americans with Disabilities Act.