CAN THE UNION GET THIS EMPLOYEE COMPENSATED?
Imagine an employee walks into the union office asking for help because she believes her manager has retaliated against her for filing an EEO discrimination race, age and disability charge. She tells you that she had already withdrawn the EEO charges before the retaliation, and that the high blood pressure she has had throughout her life has gotten worse. She goes on to say that ever since her manager informed her she was no longer scheduled to attend a career-enhancing training class, she has been crying due to severe headaches, had anxiety attacks, felt depressed, and experienced other symptoms. Her doctor told her that each of those symptoms is related to her blood pressure being even higher than normal. Can you file a grievance or EEO retaliation charge and expect that she be compensated for the damage done her if her medical problem are due to a pre-existing condition she brought with her into the federal government?
The short answer is, “Yes.” If discriminatory treatment on the job causes an employee’s pre-existing medical or mental condition to become worse, EEOC will award compensatory damages to this employee, not just order that she be sent to the training class and that the agency consider disciplining her manager. EEOC recently reaffirmed that in Complainant v Dept. of Veteran Affairs, EEOC No. 0120113346 (3/21/14) when it awarded an employee in a similar situation as this one $65,000. However, be aware that EEOC case precedent holds that the agency is only liable for any additional harm or aggravation its actions cause and if the condition would have inevitably become worse damages can be reduced for that reason as well. Nonetheless, do not worry about the fact that the employee had a preexisting condition when asking for compensatory damages.