The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently ruled that the Transportation Security Administration discriminated against a TSA employee based on his disability when the agency removed him from his position four years ago.
The lawsuit began when the TSA transferred a disabled Transportation Security Officer from a teaching position to a screening position. The TSO has a degenerative disability that at the time of his removal required him to use a cane when walking and standing. The TSO had successfully performed the duties of a TSA Approved Instructor and received an "exceeds" rating on his annual performance review. Despite this, the TSA transferred him from the teaching position to a screening position, which required up to 8 hours of standing. As a result of the transfer, the TSO was compelled to request disability retirement.
The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) subsequently filed a complaint with the EEOC on the TSO's behalf alleging constructive removal and discrimination based on disability. On April 6th, an EEOC administrative judge found that the TSA engaged in discrimination against the TSO. In addition, the EEOC AJ stated that the Assistant Federal Security Director at Washington Dulles International Airport did not believe that the TSA was required to follow the Rehabilitation Act and that the Human Resources Specialist assigned to monitor requests for disability accommodation didn't understand "basic tenets" of the law. In the decision, the AJ found that the TSA's attempt to justify its discriminatory actions was "disingenuous" and that the TSA's "actions [were] both sufficiently illogical and unreasonable to render its articulated reason unworthy of credence."
The judge awarded the TSO back pay and an unprecedented $150,000 in compensatory damages, as well as attorney fees. The judge also ordered TSA to train its management and HR team at Dulles on disability rights, and post a notice to all TSA employees at Dulles about the finding and their right to be free from discrimination at the workplace.