The EEOC recently found that an administrative improperly granted summary judgment to the National Science Foundation, when it should have permitted a case to proceed to anEEOC hearing.In Complainant v. National Science Foundation, Appeal No. 0120121886 (December 11, 2013), the EEOC reaffirmed the legal principle that summary judgment, the practice of an AJ ruling for one party on the basis that there are no material factual disputes in a case, is inappropriate in cases where there are significant issues of material fact that require an AJ to weigh conflicting evidence or make credibility determinations.

The complainant, a grants officer, filed an EEO complaint in May 2010, alleging that she was subjected to discrimination on the bases of age (51), disability (breast cancer and spinal injury), and reprisal for protected EEO activity. She maintained that she was subjected to harassment by her supervisor, to include criticizing her work incessantly and denying her monetary awards. The complainant also claimed that her requests for reasonable accommodation were denied, and that management violated her rights by requesting certain information.Among the reasonable accommodations she requested were a telework agreement and temporarily reduced workload. The complainant supplemented her requests for reasonable accommodation with letters from her physician.

The supervisor denied the telework arrangement and also denied any adjustment to her workload on grounds that a full workload was expected in the job, another supervisor claimed that the denial of reasonable accommodations was due to the complainant’s “workplace productivity” problems, and another supervisor said that granting the telework request would have been an “irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars.”

Based on these facts, the AJ granted summary judgment for the agency, ruling that the agency had articulated nondiscriminatory reasons for the alleged harassment.The AJ also determined that the agency had properly participated in the interactive process with the complainant after she had requested reasonable accommodations, and that she had not supplied proper medical documentation to the agency in support of her requests.

However, in reversing the AJ, the EEOC determined that the complainant had submitted ample medical documentation to the agency, and that it was a matter for the hearing as to whether the medical documentation was sufficient.Moreover, there was a dispute about whether the agency’s continued requests for medical documentation were warranted or not.Ultimately, the EEOC reiterated that where credibility determinations need to be made, and conflicting evidence resolved, summary judgment is inappropriate.

* This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman& Kaplan, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the representation of federal employees worldwide. For more information on Passman& Kaplan, P.C., go to http://www.passmanandkaplan.com

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