In Texarkana, an employee working for the acting commissioner of the federal Social Security Administration is claiming employee discrimination because of his visual impairment. The 37-year-old man is visually impaired due to a birth defect. He is claiming unfair treatment under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
The man was hired as a Social Insurance Specialist back in 2009. The appointment, according to the plaintiff, was supposed to be for a two-year type of probationary period. After that, he would be transferred to a career service employee or be given a career-conditional position if he performed the job satisfactorily.
However, in January 2011, a new supervisor was appointed as the acting commissioner. The new supervisor is accused of using discriminatory language when referring to the man. According to his lawsuit, he also claims his supervisor admitted that she was put in her position for the purpose of getting rid of him.
The man was hired in July 2009 and terminated in June 2011, shortly before the two-year period was up. So now it is in the court's hands to decide whether the man was just not performing satisfactorily or if he was actually being treated unfairly as alleged. The man's accusations may be a matter of "he said/she said" unless he can prove otherwise.
There were no accusations of being denied any reasonable accommodations for his impairment, which could have resulted in OSHA citations. Although the man generically claims that he was treated differently than non-disabled employees, the employer has rights also. They are not always responsible for actions of coworkers unless they are notified of such discriminatory acts so they can take steps to halt that kind of behavior. In this case, the man may need to prove that his allegations were reported to his superiors or the proper authorities.
The attorneys for the Social Security Administration must be prepared to show that the employee was not a victim of wrongful termination. Since the plaintiff claims that he was promised a career opportunity after two years based on satisfactory work, it could be that his work was legitimately unsatisfactory. It should not be automatically assumed that discrimination actually occurred without proof. The suit could just be a case of sour grapes from the terminated employee. That is for the attorneys to prove and the courts to decide.
Source: setexasrecord.com, "Visually impaired government worker files discrimination lawsuit" Michelle Keahey, Dec. 17, 2013