Woman wins discrimination appeal through the EEOC

Wendy Ghannam expressed relief that her seven-year ordeal against theAgency for International Development(USAID)was finally over in aninterview held recently in downtown Washington, DC. Ms. Ghannam received afavorable ruling from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding the appeal to her complaint of employment discrimination due toongoing problems with carpal tunnel/repetitive stress disease.

In several complaints consolidated by the agency, Ms. Ghannam allegesthat she was discriminated against based on race, sex, and disability. Inthe complaint she indicates that this occurred when:
(a) the agency failed to accommodate her disability (repetetitive stress/carpal tunneldiseases);
(b) she was placed on absence without leave status (AWOL) while unable towork due to her disability for over five months;
(c) she was denied any workmen’s compensation prog. assistance and monies;
(d) she was downgraded and denied a step increase when she returned to work following disabilityleave in 1995; and
(e) she was denied accommodation and training after she returned to work when she was reassigned by her agency.

Ms. Ghannam alleged also that she was retailiated against when USAIDcontacted her health plan provider and demanded an investigation of her health program (which resulted in discontinuation of coverage for her son), and that her signature on her 1994-95 performance evaluation was forged byagency supervisors during her medical absence.

The Administrative judge who first heard Ms. Ghannam’s complaint issued a decision finding that she failed to establish discrimination on any basis. The judge also concluded that USAID had attempted to accommodate Ms. Ghannam by reassigning her to a receptionist position. After our initialinterview Ms. Ghannam readily admitted that the EEOC Admin. Law Judge accepted an agency bribe following that first initial hearing on Jan. 8,1998.

Following her appeal that was submitted further to internal channelswithin the EEOC, however, the Commission reversed that first decision regarding Ms. Ghannam’s claim that she was denied reasonable accommodationwhen the agency failed to consider her physician’s request for assistivetechnology (voice activation), which would have permitted her to resume her original GS-7 employee development position at the agency. As a result ofthe violation, the EEOC has ordered the Agency for Internatonal Development (USAID) to:

1. Retroactively re-instate Ms. Ghannam to her former GS-7 position within 30 days.
2. Award Ms. Ghannam back pay, with interest for all wages and benefits lost, if any, between the day she was denied reasonable accommidation and the date she returns to duty at the agency/or declinesreinstatement–or is otherwise unable to return to duty, or would have been subject to separation as part of a reduction in force.
3. Provide training to all the management officials responsible forthis matter at the agency in their duties and obligations under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
4. Submit a report of compliance (which includes documentation of the agency’s calculation of back pay and other benefits due to Ms. Ghannam.

Aside from the above requirements, the agency was also ordered to post in “conspicuous” places a Notice indicating that they had violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Ms. Ghannam was also awarded attorney fees aswell.

Ms. Ghannam noted that: “This ruling and the relief that I received is a victory for all working women who struggle everday to have theirworkplace concerns heard. It recognizes the tremendous financial and emotionalcosts involved when dealing with the dirty tactics of some employers–even theFederal Gov’t who is not immune to these same types of behaviors. Also, Ifeel that it is definitely high time that employers face the problems aswell as the workplace needs of injured workers because of carpal tunnel/repetitive stress. Groups like 9 to 5 (The National Association ofWorking Women) were very supportive during this lengthy EEOC hearing process.” Ms. Ghannam says that she plans to write a book about her experiences and continue to speak out about relevant workplace discrimination around the country.

As of this date, Ms. Ghannam and her attorney are still in the grips of initiating a final conclusion in a judicious mode with the agency, USAID,located in Washington, D.C. and may be taking their concerns into U.S. Federal Court with the direct oversight of the EEOC in next few months. Ms. Ghannam can be reached at the above contact info, and is available tospeak around the country relative to her workplace debacle experiencesconcerning both agencies.

Wendy W. Ghannam
(703) 938-6253
E-Mail: Desert_Rose72@Hotmail.com

This article is courtesy of the Washington University website.

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