October 20, 2003
Enid Doggett
Diane Witiak
(202) 639-6421

AFGE Takes TSA Supervisor to Court; Asks for Compensatory and Punitive Damages

Full Text of Complaint

WASHINGTON, D.C.-The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) on Friday, October 17, 2003, filed suit on behalf of former Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screener Debra Cummings who was fired following an incident in which she asked an Air Tran pilot to submit to secondary screening. In accordance with standard operating procedures (SOPs), Cummings requested the additional screening after observing suspicious behavior as the pilot went through the metal passenger detection gate.

AFGE is charging both James Loy, head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and the former Acting Federal Security Director (FSD) of Dayton International Airport with violating Cummings' First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution.

"It's time TSA's supervisory staff are held accountable for the hostile environment they have created through intimidation and fear," said AFGE National President John Gage. "Federal screeners enjoy their work and are dedicated to the critical role they play on the front lines of the war on terrorism. But, management's lack of respect as well as intimidation is hurting the efforts of screeners to provide the best security at our nation's airports for fear of retaliation and even termination by their supervisors."

Despite previously receiving a positive evaluation and a certificate of appreciation for outstanding performance and attendance, a complaint filed by the pilot resulted in a termination letter to Cummings, citing the incident with the Air Tran pilot as the central reason.

Cummings, unfortunately, had drawn the attention of TSA management before the Air Tran pilot incident, when she requested Sundays off to attend church, again when management became aware that she was distributing union literature while off-duty, and following the request and approval of leave to care for her sick children.

AFGE's complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, charges TSA with violations of the defendant's First Amendment rights of free speech, free association and free exercise of religion-she was denied approval for leave to attend church services.

In addition to Admiral Loy, the Acting Federal Security Director at the Dayton airport has also been personally charged with violating the Constitution. The union has asked the court to order the former Acting FSD to pay compensatory and punitive damages.

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