Thanks to our union, an administrative judge has ordered the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to change its national policy regarding medical disqualification removals following a wrongful termination of a TSA officer.
In addition to changing its national policy, TSA was also ordered to pay the employee one month of backpay and $100,000 in compensatory damages.
The TSA officer was represented in this equal employment opportunity case by our union, which successfully argued that the agency discriminated against the officer when it forced her to take unpaid leave for a month after it issued her a proposed removal.
How we won the case
The officer, who temporarily suffered from migraines due to a neck problem, was placed on paid administrative leave for seven days under TSA’s Job Search Program, which searches for jobs within TSA and DHS for medically unfit officers before deciding on their proposed removals.
Even though the officer did not choose to take part in the Job Search Program, TSA still forced the officer to take unpaid leave after the seven days of administrative leave while they were trying to decide whether to remove her. She was terminated a month later.
Our union argued that the officer shouldn’t have been forced to take unpaid leave while waiting on the removal decision. Other employees who are disqualified because they fail to pass annual certification are maintained in a paid duty status while waiting for the outcome of their proposed removals.
We also argued that the officer was successfully treated and was certified fit for duty with only minor intermittent headaches during the one month when she was forced to use leave without pay. Our union argued that TSA failed to conduct an individualized assessment of the officer and failed to demonstrate how the minor headaches interfered with her ability to carry out her essential job duties.
The Office of Chief Medical Officer (OCMO) cited these minor intermittent headaches as a reason to disqualify her. Even though the TSA officer provided additional medical information to support her case from an orthopedic surgeon, the deciding official didn’t think it was relevant and failed to forward it to the OCMO. The officer was subsequently removed.
Three months later, she was reinstated by TSA’s appeal board, which cited the deciding officer’s harmful error in not forwarding the surgeon’s note to the OCMO. Even though she was reinstated, the officer had no means of getting back pay for the one month she was forced to take leave without pay.
The judge agreed with our union and ordered TSA to pay the officer backpay and compensatory damages. The judge also ordered TSA to change its policies to comply with the Rehabilitation Act.
Here are the changes that our union’s victory will force TSA to make:
- Because TSA does not limit the amount of paid administrative leave for employees facing removals due to non-medical reasons, TSA must not limit paid administrative leave to only seven days for employees issued a proposed removal for medical reasons.
- Unless the employee would pose a direct threat in a duty status, TSA may not force an employee to take leave, such as leave without pay, annual, sick, administrative, and others, after receiving a proposed removal due to a medical condition.
- Before removing an officer from duty based upon medical disqualification, TSA must perform an individualized assessment of an employee’s condition and the impact the condition has on his or her ability to carry out essential officer duties.
Our union is happy to be able to make a difference in the lives of all TSA officers across the country with the victory in this case.
Join the winning team
If you are a TSA officer and haven’t joined our union, now is the time. We fight for better pay, workplace rights, and working conditions for TSA officers across the country. When we stand together, we can achieve so much more than we can individually. So join us today!