NAVY DELAY TOSSES $300,000 OVERBOARD
These stories just keep on coming thanks to less-than-stellar agency efforts to provide reasonable accommodations–and employees willing to stand up for themselves. EEOC just issued a new decision ordering the Department of the Navy to pay more than $300,000 to compensate an employee and his attorney for the damage the agency did when it delayed providing an employee a requested reasonable accommodation. As if that was not painful enough for Navy, the Commission also ordered it to give two of the involved managers 120 hours of training on disabilities and the reasonable accommodation obligation. Here is how the employee did it.
The employee had a condition that required he rest quietly for a period during every work day. His doctor certified that and no one ever disagreed that the rest was required. However, when the employee asked for private space where he could some rest at critical times, the agency failed to provide it timely. In fact, even after Navy agreed to give him the space the agency denied him temporary access to the space until the settlement was final.
When his complaint got to the EEOC, it looked at any evidence of “emotional pain, or suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, injury to professional reputation, injury to character or reputation, injury to credit standing, loss of health, and any of non-pecuniary losses” he suffered because of the discrimination. The employee submitted his own testimony about those issuers and his doctor also testified to the medical evidence of some of those factors. That is all EEOC needed to give the employee $145,000 in damages and his attorney $155,000 with an opportunity to claim even more in fees. There was no need for deep psychological testing, full medical exams by agency doctors, social worker statements, or the like. FEDSMILL is not saying these cases are easy to win, but they certainly are not impossible to win.
Unions should remind members that they have the right to reasonable accommodations when suffering a physical or mental disability. EEOC and the courts use a very liberal definition of what qualifies as a disability. So long as the employee identifies or offers to help management identify a reasonable accommodation, the agency must move quickly to provide the accommodation. If it delays, it opens the door to a disability discrimination charge and six-figure damage awards.
When is the last time your local sent out an e-mail to all employees inviting them to talk to union reps if they have disabilities for which they would like a reasonable accommodation? If you cannot remember when, then do it next week.
Here are three prior FEDSMILL postings you might find interesting dealing with disability discrimination and reasonable accommodations.
And here is a very good site by a fellow WordPress blogger that we recommend for those with a strong interest is employee disability law.