Public defender says he was fired for being a single dad to autistic child

Public defender says he was fired for being a single dad to autistic child

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by GLENN COUNTS / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @GCountsWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on June 4, 2013 at 5:54 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 4 at 6:00 PM

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. -- An attorney is suing the office he used to work for claiming he was fired because he took time off to take care of his autistic son.
 
Robert Carlin has had a long career as a public defender working in San Diego, Los Angeles, Corpus Christi Texas, and Santa Anna, California.

In 2009 he moved to Asheville to take a position with the Federal Public Defenders Office in the Western District of North Carolina.

“I just don't feel that people should be treated with such callous disregard," he said.

In 2010 Carlin’s wife Gina committed suicide after a severe depression; that left him to raise their three kids alone. His oldest, 10-year-old Luke, suffers from autism.

"He's non-verbal, so the day starts out-- he's not toilet trained-- changing his diaper with whatever it’s soiled with," said Carlin.

Because of his wife’s suicide Carlin says he had to take time away from work to get his children situated. He says he had a good work record, but when he came back he says he was pressured.

"I just think they didn't want to deal with a single parent let alone much less the single parent of a child with special needs," said the public defender.

Eight months after Gina’s death, Carlin was terminated. Tuesday morning his attorney filed a lawsuit against the Federal Defenders Office at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.

"We believe it violates both North Carolina and Federal law for an employer to terminate an employee because they have an autistic child," said Joshua Van Kampen, Carlin’s Attorney.

Because Carlin lost his job he had to move to San Jose, California, and is employed with the Federal Public Defender’s Office there.

Carlin says no employee should have to go through what he’s been through, and he hopes this suit makes that point.

"If I do it for clients whom I hold high regard, but they are strangers, I have to do it for my children," Carlin said.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Henderson Hill, the executive director of the Federal Defenders responded, “We strongly deny the allegations and intend to vigorously fight them in court.”

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