In an August 22, 2007, decision, the Office of Federal Operations (OFO) of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found the USPS liable for failure to reasonably accommodate. Bratsch v. U.S.P.S., EEOC Appeal No. 0120071942 (August 22, 2007).
The OFO ordered the Agency to pay $8,000.00 in non-compensatory pecuniary damages. (The OFO adjudicates appeals of Federal Agency decisions on discrimination complaints, and also ensures Agency compliance with decisions based on those appeals.)
The decision came after the Complainant’s appeal of the Agency’s final decision awarding him only $2,500.oo in non-pecuniary compensatory damages. (Complainant did not claim any actual pecuniary damages).
According to the Agency’s decision, the Complainant did not show that there was any ongoing discrimination and that he was only entitled to $2,500.00 in non-pecuniary damages.
In the underlying case, the Agency was found to have discriminated against the Complainant when it failed to reasonably accommodate complainant’s hearing impairment by not providing him with a sign language interpreter or other means of participation in the Agency’s employee meetings.
According to the Commission, there was evidence of at least five incidents over a one year period where the agency failed to accommodate complainant’s hearing impairment.
The EEOC found that $8,000.00 was an appropriate sum for damages based on three major factors.
First, case precedent illustrated that damages in similar cases ranged from $7,500.00 to $10,000.00.
Second, the EEOC said that the purpose of non-compensatory pecuniary damages is to remedy the harm to the Complainant and not punish the Agency.
Third, there was evidence in the record that the Agency’s conduct caused the Complainant feelings of frustration; the evidence also showed that the Agency’s deliberate conduct showed total disregard for the disabled employee.What is interesting about the decision is that it illustrates an ongoing problem in Federal government management circles.
Managers fail to realize how little is often required to accommodate disabled employees – in this case all that was required was a sign-language interpreter to be made available at sporadic meetings.
Instead of choosing to allow a hearing impaired employee this small accommodation, the Agency expended substantial time and money – not only to lose its case, but also an additional $8,000.00.
If you have questions about your complaint of discrimination against a Federal Agency, or want to speak with an attorney that practices before the EEOC, contact the Law Offices of Eric L. Pines, PLLC today.