The EEOC has held that an agency’s removal motivated by an injured employee’s work absences is actionable reprisal, even where the employee did not specifically request "reasonable accommodation." Cherilyn Mannon, Complainant, v. Patrick R. Donahoe, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, (Western Area), EEOC Appeal No. 0720070074 (April 4, 2012).
Mannon, a casual letter carrier, suffered a disabling knee injury that prevented her from fulfilling her carrier duties. Mannon told her supervisor that she had asked the human resources office (HRO) to place her on a transfer roster through which Mannon could be moved to a position within her medical restrictions. Mannon specifically informed the supervisor and another managing supervisor that she wanted to wait to "resign" at a later date in order to become eligible for a new position through the HRO. The managing supervisor instead terminated Mannon without notice the next day, gave her a poor evaluation, and cited Mannon’s "poor attendance record" as the reason for termination, even though the only reason Mannon missed work was the disabling injury.
The EEOC upheld the administrative judge’s ruling that the termination, just one day before Mannon would have been reassigned to a new, non-letter carrier job within her medical limitations, was motivated by discrimination on the basis of her disability. The EEOC also upheld the administrative judge’s ruling that the manager’s actions were retaliatory, since Mannon’s request to be reappointed to a position within her limitations was "tantamount to a request for reasonable accommodation for disability."
The EEOC sustained an award to Mannon of $85,000 in nonpecuniary (compensatory) damages. Her damages stemmed from the financial and social devastation of losing her job, including having to seek subsidized housing assistance and food stamps, and the attendant depression and social withdrawal. The EEOC also awarded full attorneys fees, even though six of seven claims were not sustained at the hearing. The Commission rejected the agency’s attempt to cut Mannon’s attorneys fees award by 50 percent. The EEOC found that the claims were not "fractionable" because the successful and unsuccessful claims were "closely intertwined, involved a common core of facts, and occurred over a relatively short period of time." The Commission again reaffirmed its reluctance to reduce attorney fees where a complainant did not prevail in all claims.
* 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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