NTEU WINS $ FOR SIGHT & HEARING IMPAIRED, BUT SHAME ON FLRA
Calling once again on the small army of lawyers it employs, NTEU has won two more Section 508 Rehabilitation Act discrimination cases. At the end of September, FLRA finally dismissed exceptions the agency had filed to an arbitration decision that held the agency had violated an employee’s rights. (66 FLRA 228) The arbitrator held that the agency took an unreasonable amount of time to determine whether the employee needed more time to scan materials than others without a sight disability or needed adaptive equipment. He said the same about the agency’s delay providing the grievant the equipment. The arbitrator awarded the employee $35,000 in compensatory damages and NTEU got attorney fees. That’s great news for the employee and NTEU, but FLRA should be ashamed and send the employee a personal apology. It took approximately five years to close this case.
In another case, NTEU settled a grievance charging the agency with failing to provide the deaf and hard of hearing with sign language interpreters each time they needed them, e.g., at unit meetings, counseling conversations, training programs, etc. This was another Rehabilitation Act case without any claim of a contract violation. The agency settled the case by offering the hundreds of employees with this disability $3,000. each in compensatory damages if they certify they were denied interpretive services. If employees believe they are entitled to more, they can turn down the $3,000 and go to arbitration to prove greater damages.
If you have not done it recently, you might want to pass this story on to your members along with a reminder that they should come to the union if they have been denied a reasonable accommodation or even if they have witnessed that happen to others who may be relucant to complain. While unions may be best known for enforcing contract rights, they gain a lot more clout and respect by also enforcing regulations, laws, etc.