Let’s count the mistakes the FBI made in terminating this employee (Emmitt) who had asked for a disability-related reasonable accommodation. First, the employee’s supervisor showed up at his house unannounced while the employee was on sick leave to do a “welfare check.” This somehow also involved also taking the employee’s service weapon and inspecting his bedroom.  She then told his mother management thought Emmitt was lying about being sick. To make the visit truly memorable, she mocked him to his face. Second, … 

when asked under oath to explain why she did the welfare check, the supervisor referred to some troubling email from the employee to a co-worker as the cause for the unusual visit. But no one in management could find it.

Third, when the supervisor got back to the office, she told several colleagues about the employee’s medical condition during roll call.

Fourth, when the employee formally requested a reasonable accommodation, a couple of high-level managers told him to use FMLA instead, and when that ran out they moved to fire him. Upon being served with the Notice of Proposed Removal, he told management that he had a pending request for a medical reasonable accommodation that needed to be addressed before they could fire him.  They ignored that too.

Fifth, despite getting several requests for accommodations from the employee, the agency never engaged him in the “interactive process” required to explore the reasonableness of the accommodation and alternatives.

Finally, the EEOC judge found that the evidence showed that supervision harbored discriminatory animus against the employee based on his disability-related absences.  That frustration and resentment led to a hostile work environment for Emmitt.

We would go on listing mistakes, but frankly we can’t think of many more mistakes an agency could make in a disability accommodation situation.

Perhaps the most stinging and lasting remedy EEOC imposed was its finding that “…the relevant management officials who testified at the hearing (Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Captain) did not appear credible.”  That is the type of conclusion that can haunt a law enforcement officer’s career and risk their usefulness to the agency.

In contrast, Emmitt came away with reinstatement with about eight years of back pay (including promotions from grade 9 through 11 and on to 12) extra cash to cover the tax liability, 840 hours of restored leave, and an order that should the FBI be unable to find a position for him it is to continue to pay him at the GS-12 level for another two years.  That is commonly called front pay and is a rare remedy.

If you want to know more about this case, check out Emmitt E., v. Merrick B. Garland, Attorney General, DoJ, (FBI), EEOC No. 2023000640 (2024)

About AdminUN

FEDSMILL staff has over 40 years of federal sector labor relations experience on the union as well as management side of the table and even some time as a neutral.
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