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Discrimination lawsuit names EEOC - as a defendant

In many discrimination lawsuits filed against employers in Florida and throughout the country, the employee plaintiffs have a powerful ally on their side: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or the EEOC. This federal agency has the duty and responsibility to protect workers from discrimination and hold employers accountable for failing to treat employees fairly. So why is the EEOC now facing such a lawsuit and allegations that it did exactly that?

According to media reports, the lawsuit was filed by a woman who worked for the EEOC as an administrative law judge until 2007. She sued the EEOC in 2006, claiming that the agency violated the Rehabilitation Act. This law, which applies only to firms that get federal funding, protects qualified workers from being discriminated against because of a disability.

Specifically, the plaintiff claims that the EEOC discriminated against her based on her diagnosis with multiple sclerosis. She filed an internal complaint, but was told during an internal hearing that she did not qualify for the protection of the Rehabilitation Act because she was unable to perform her job duties even with the required accommodation.

However, the judge that presided over that hearing also reportedly found that the EEOC retaliated against the plaintiff after she filed her complaint. This took the form of tighter deadlines than co-workers and being passed over for deserved promotions, her lawsuit claims.

Following the internal hearing, the woman withdrew her complaint in order to file the civil suit. The district court initially dismissed her claim, stating that she had filed her lawsuit too soon after filing her internal complaint. Last month, an appeals court overturned that decision, allowing the plaintiff to go forward with her lawsuit against the EEOC.

Source: Huffington Post, "Mary Bullock's Discrimination Lawsuit Against Anti-Discrimination Agency Most Ironic Lawsuit Ever?" Jillian Berman, July 31, 2012

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