You would think that the agency charged with protecting workers from discrimination would know a thing or two about how not to get sued for discrimination. Apparently not.
Mary Bullock’s lawsuit against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is being revived by an appeals court, according to the Wall Street Journal. Bullock, who worked as an administrative law judge at the agency until 2007, sued the EEOC in 2006, alleging it violated the Rehabilitation Act -- a law that protects qualified workers at firms that get federal funding from being discriminated against based on a disability.
Bullock's claim is particularly ironic given that the EEOC is the agency responsible for enforcing federal laws aimed at preventing employer discrimination. In fact, the EEOC received 25,742 complaints last year from workers claiming they were facing discrimination because of their disability. It’s the agency’s job to investigate those complaints and take action on the charges they find credible.
The EEOC didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
During her time at the EEOC, Bullock filed an internal complaint claiming the agency discriminated against her because of her multiple sclerosis, according to the federal appeals court decision. A contract judge in an internal hearing ruled that Bullock didn’t qualify for protection under the Rehabilitation Act because she couldn’t perform her duties even with accommodation. But the judge also found that the EEOC retaliated against Bullock after she filed her complaint.
The EEOC didn't allow Bullock to work at home, gave her tighter deadlines than her non-disabled employees and kept her from getting promoted, her lawsuit claims, according to the WSJ.
Both Bullock and the EEOC appealed the decision internally, but Bullock ultimately withdrew her complaint because she intended to file a civil suit. She filed the suit, which the district court dismissed claiming it came too soon after she filed the administrative complaint. The appeals court reversed that decision earlier this week, which means Bullock can move forward with her suit.
Workers with disabilities like Bullock can face widespread discrimination both at work and when looking for a job. Nearly 70 percent of disabled workers aren’t part of the labor force, less than before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act.