Pines Federal Justin Schnitzer Win’s Huge VA EEO Hearing Victory The Complainant, a registered nurse working at the VA, filed a discrimination case on the basis of her disability and retaliation. The V.A. failed to accommodate her for a period of nine months. After five years the case finally went to hearing and Attorney Justin Schnitzer successfully litigated the case. The Judge found that the Complainant suffered discrimination due to her disability, fibromyalgia, and workplace harassment in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973/ADA. Additionally, her FMLA was wrongfully denied. The Judge awarded the Complainant $100,000 in non-pecuniary compensatory damages (pain and suffering) as well as back pay with interest beginning from her effective date of disability through the age at which she would have been entitled to full retirement, 62. This was a complete total victory with benefits to the client that exceed hundreds of thousands of dollars. The Judge also ordered full attorney’s fees.
Pines Federal’s Amanda Moreno Wins Reinstatement and Backpay in MSPB Case at DHS, USCBP The Appellant worked for Customs and Border Patrol for over 20 years when the Agency removed her for LWOP and alleged misconduct at work. Attorney Moreno represented the Appellant based on solely on written briefs. The Judge found that the deciding official’s failure to consider the entirety of the appellants response is a violation of due process. The appellant received a complete and total victory. The Agency was ordered to reinstate the Appellant to her position with complete back pay, with interest, and benefits. The Appellant was also awarded full attorney’s fees.
Pines Federal wins FAA Employee Right to Display Chanukah Decorations along with Christmas Decorations Last month, Pines Federal Attorney’s Justin Schnitzer and Amanda Moreno won a precedent setting EEO Case allowing a FAA Employee who attempted to display Chanukah decorations in the office and was asked to take them down by a Union representative. The Administrative Judge found that the employee should have been to allowed at the very least to decorate the FAA office with non-religious related symbols that commemorate Chanukah like dreidel wrapping paper, just as this same employee was allowed to decorate the office with a string of lights to commemorate Christmas. The Judge relied on the employees right to Religious Accommodation under Title VII. In the case, our client chose to decorate the FAA office with symbols from Christianity and Judaism. Some of the items she hung were overtly religious and some referred to the season and touched on the religion. A Union representative was delegated responsibility to determine the nature of holiday decorations that would be hung at the FAA facility. The official expressed that he had received complaints by another employee about the Chanukah decorations and forced our client to remove them while allowing the Christmas related decorations to remain. Our client filed and EEO case and we were ultimately successful on her behalf in showing that the Agency had violated Title VII by failing to accommodate her. In addition to this case setting legal precedent on religious rights out client was awarded damages and attorneys fees. If you are a federal employee who feels they have been discriminated against based on your religion or disability reach out to us at Pines Federal and we will be happy to assist you with your accommodation request or legal action if necessary.
Pines Federal Secures Favorable Decision From MSPB in OPM Annuity Matter On April 10, 2023, the firm achieved a strong favorable decision from the Merit Systems Protection Board in an OPM annuity matter: Appellant successfully proved an underpayment and brought OPM to correct her annuity, reaping an enormous positive difference in her overall lifelong annuity payments. Subsequently, on July 18, 2023, the Board issued a momentous decision awarding attorney's fees approaching $20,000.00. This significant decision set precedent for appellants to earn back their fees in an OPM annuity payment dispute, and even when OPM changes their position without the necessity of a hearing. To cite the decision: "[T]he litigation did result in the elimination of the overpayment assessment and a higher annuity calculation," and therefore, the Appellant achieved a significant attorney's fees award.
Major Success in Front of the MSPB in an OPM Disability Case On July 19, 2023, Pines Federal achieved a big win in front of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) in an OPM disability case. After the firm won the case on initial decision, OPM filed a petition for review (PFR), challenging the Board's determination of deserved benefits, and which paused the Appellant's receipt of benefits. After filing a challenge to OPM's PFR, the firm had the initial decision affirmed. Appellant will be expecting a massive back payment from OPM given her waiting period.
Disability Awarded Disability A rural-carrier postal employee who suffers from several physical medical conditions, including lumbar subluxation, lumbar radiculitis, sciatica, and lumbar strain/sprain. We are delighted that we were able to assist this client throughout the entire application process and that we were able to help this client secure these important benefits.
Disability Awarded Disability A vocational rehabilitation specialist who suffers from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-concussion syndrome. We are delighted that we were able to assist this client throughout the entire application process (including frequent interaction with his agency on his behalf) and that we were able to help him secure these important benefits for him and his family.
Reinstated Successfully Fights Alleged Violation of Last Chance Agreement The Law Offices of Eric L. Pines successfully represented a V.A. employee at the Washington D.C. V.A. Hospital recently who was removed for allegedly violating a Last Chance Agreement by being AWOL on three separate occasions. The firm argued before the MSPB Administrative Judge that the agency failed to prove that the V.A. employee was actually AWOL on the days in question arguing that the V.A. employee was not present at work on the day in question solely because she was attending a training for her office. The MSPB Judge pressured the Agency representative to settle the case and to reinstate the employee. Other remedies include full back pay under the Back Pay Act and Attorneys Fees. The employee received her job back and was rather pleased with the outcome.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Staff Pharmacist who suffers from blood poisoning from a hip implant was awarded disability retirement.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Management Analyst who suffers from back issues was awarded disability retirement.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Supervisor of Customer Services who suffers from PTSD and anxiety was awarded disability retirement.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Licensed Practical Nurse who suffers from Leukemia was awarded disability retirement.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Mailhandler who suffers from renal failure was awarded disability retirement.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance An Air traffic Control specialist who suffers from TBI, migraines depression, and anxiety was awarded disability retirement.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Registered Nurse who suffers from TBI and PTSD was awarded disability retirement.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance An EEO Counselor who suffers from PTSD was awarded disability retirement.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Safety Technician who suffers from multiple sclerosis, fatigue, ankylosis spondylitis, and sleep apnea was awarded disability retirement.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Transportation Security Officer who suffers from chronic pain in his back, hips, knees, neck, legs, and feet was awarded disability retirement.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance An Occupational Safety Specialist who suffers from amblyopia.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Human Resources Assistant who suffers from PTSD, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, bi-polar disorder, and adjustment disorder.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Clinical Nurse who suffers from major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and social phobia.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Community Planner who suffers from major depressive disorder, bi-polar disorder, and mood disorder.
Disability Awarded OPM Disability Acceptance A Social Insurance Specialist who suffers from advanced coronary artery disease.
Charges Dropped V.A. Title 38 Nurse Has AIB Charges Dropped and Record Cleaned The Pines Law Firm, led by Eric Pines, Esq. and Stephen Goldenzweig successfully represented V.A. Nurse in AIB Hearing and assisted the Nurse with having his records cleaned and charges dropped. The Nurse had been wrongfully accused of beating elderly patients, however, the V.A. had no evidence whatsoever to support its charges. Instead, the V.A. used the testimony of disgruntled V.A. patients who were not psychologically stable to drum up charges against the nurse. These charges would have likely lead to the employees removal and loss of his nursing license. The Pines firm assisted the client during his AIB investigation and with an intensive rebuttal which included testimony of witnesses and documentary evidence. Ultimately the V.A. did the right thing when the AIB came to the conclusion that the charges had been wrongfully brought. The charges were completely dropped and the nurse was put back to work in his job with a clean and unblemished record.
Disability Awarded Client Suffering from Severe Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis BRR began experiencing psoriasis of the groin/pelvic area and psoriatic arthritis of the joints in June 2009. BRR’s health quickly deteriorated and he soon found himself confined to his bed 16+ hours per day as a result of the grueling symptoms associated with these medical conditions, including but not limited to, constant tearing and exacerbation of the skin in the affected areas, and severe inflammation and pain in all the major and minor joints of the body. As a result, BRR remained in a non-duty status for over 2.5 years! BRR was finally advised by his agency to consider applying for FERS disability retirement. Unfortunately, BRR relied solely on the agency to guide him through the complicated application process, and as a result, his application was promptly denied by OPM. BRR then sought assistance from this firm to help him prepare and submit his Reconsideration Appeal to OPM. Immediately evident was the poor quality and abysmal organizational structure of the original application package. The information contained within was fraught with discrepancies and inaccuracies. It’s really no wonder that OPM denied the initial application. In one section of the application, the agency actually informed OPM that BRR had been accommodated for his medical conditions, which was completely untrue! With our work cut out for us, we scrutinized both the initial application and the denial letter from OPM, thus allowing us to identify and rectify all of the discrepancies, inaccuracies, and completely false information contained in the original application. Where applicable, we provided additional medical evidence and documentation to support our claims/arguments. We even included references to recent MSPB case law applicable to our client’s appeal. In the end, we were able to clearly show that BRR met the legal requirements for FERS disability retirement, and OPM promptly issued BRR his acceptance letter!
Suspension Removed & Back Pay Win! Pines Federal Firm Overturns DAB – 14 Day Suspension with Full Back Pay In Re: Velena West vs. V.A, DAB Case 51 (2012), Attorney Eric L. Pines represented a Nurse at the Michael Debakey Houston VA Hospital before the VA Disciplinary Appeals Board. The case went to a three-day hearing before a board of three nurse peers. The nurse was wrongfully accused of mistreating a veteran. The testimony included 15 witnesses. Specifically, the director of the VA Hospital, Mr. Adam Walmus, was convincingly cross-examined by attorney Pines. Ultimately, The Board felt that Mr. Walmus should have presented the nurse with his findings and given her the opportunity to respond to the charges. The Board ultimately decided 100% in favor of the Appellant. She is to receive full back-pay and the suspension will be removed from her records in its entirety. A petition for attorneys’ fees is pending.
Reinstated with Full Back Pay Wrongfully Terminated Veterans Administration Employee Gets Job Back In an exciting precedent-setting victory, The Law Office of Eric L. Pines, PLLC has successfully helped a Veterans Administration employee get her job back after being wrongfully terminated for using leave for the birth of her child and to care for her autistic and blind children. The VA had relied upon esoteric legalistic arguments to say that because the employee worked in the Canteen Service, she was not entitled to file a grievance on her termination. Federal employee attorney Eric Pines and AFGE Local 1633 representative Michael King successfully argued that the employee was entitled to a hearing, as grievance rights are separate from rights to appeal to the MSPB. The agency was ordered to reinstate the grievant with full back pay and lost benefits for over a year and a half of lost pay. Additionally, the arbitrator requested a petition for attorney’s fees.
Reinstated with Full Back Pay Pines Firm Successfully Litigates Reinstatement for VA Canteen Employee with Backpay Attorney Pines and AFGE 1633 were victorious in having the arbitrator find that a VA Canteen employee was wrongfully removed, and therefore should be put back to work and paid back pay for over a year and half of pay.
V.A. Client's 14-Day Suspension Completely Overturned Mr. Pines recently represented V.A. employee who was suspended for 14 days for alleged Inappropriate Conduct on 4 separate Specification's. The situation involved 100% hearsay and the employee was accused of raising her voice to request that lights be turned down in order to assist her with her migraine headache. Mr. Pines adeptly advocated for the employee through the entire grievance process. The Agency ultimately completely rescinded the suspension and order 14 days of back pay as well as having the suspension completely removed from her record.