Claustrophobic Calls Cramped Quarters Cruel

March 4, 2005 ( - A former River Vale, New Jersey, employee is suing the township because her office is too small.

Lucille Tyska, 56, who worked for the township for 18 years, alleges that her former boss, Business Administrator Bibi Stewart Garvin, assigned her to work in a cluttered office 6 feet by 8 feet last March, in spite of a doctor’s note confirming that she suffers from claustrophobia, according to

Tyska said she was denied the opportunity to change offices, and had to take prescribed tranquilizers so she could continue to work in the room, the federal lawsuit alleges. A series of incidents followed that only worsened her condition, eventually forcing her to quit.

The suit alleges Tyska suffered a panic attack on March 30 and had to leave work to get treatment. Her doctor prescribed bed rest, told her to avoid places that could worsen the condition, and wrote a second medical note saying the small office was triggering her claustrophobia, according to the report. However, when she returned to work on April 2, the suit alleges Garvin ordered her back into the same office. Tyska began to feel claustrophobic again, and her doctor told her not to go back to work until April 28, later extending that to May 5. She was then sent to a Westwood psychiatrist who prescribed antidepressants, according to the suit.

Things Get Worse

Things got even worse when she returned on May 5. Tyska said she returned to find her desk bolted to another and a partition, making the room feel even smaller – and Garvin then told Tyska that she would still be required to work in the same office.

According to the suit, the next day Garvin gave Tyska a letter of reprimand and a notice of disciplinary action, citing a failure to notify the township of her absence from work from March 30 to April 7. He then suspended Tyska for two days for failing to work in the office she was assigned, for leaving work early without notifying her, and for failing to comply with her new work assignment as a file clerk, according to the report.

After receiving the disciplinary notices, the suit states that Tyska requested half a personal day, but Garvin refused to grant it. Her password to her work computer was changed, preventing her from doing her duties. At that point, Tyska alleges, she was effectively forced out of the job because she couldn’t tolerate the conditions anymore.

Tyska, 56, blames her ties to former Mayor Raymond Darakjian, Paschalis’ political opponent. “Mayor Paschalis was aware of everything that was going on,” she said, according to the report. “Ms. Garvin did the work, but he was behind it.”

The lawsuit filed in US District Court in Newark also names Mayor George Paschalis and township lawyer John Carbone as defendants.