WOMAN WINS DISCRIMINATION
APPEAL THROUGH THE EEOC
By Ms. Valencia Campbell
January 16, 2001
Wendy Ghannam expressed relief that her five-year ordeal against the Agency for International Development(USAID)was finally over in an interview held last week in downtown Washington, DC. Mrs. Ghannam received a favorable ruling from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding the appeal to her complaint of employment discrimination.
In several complaints consolidated by the agency, Mrs. Ghannam alleges that she was discriminated against based on race, sex, and disability. In the complaint she indicates that this occurred when:
(a) the agency failed to accommodate her disability (repetetitive stress/carpal tunnel diseases);
(b) she was placed on absence without leave status (AWOL) while unable to work due to her disability;
(c) she was denied worker's compensation;
(d) she was downgraded and denied a step increase when she returned to work; and
(c) she was denied accommodation and training after she returned to work and she was reassigned.
Mrs. Ghannam alleged also that she was retailiated against when USAID contacted 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 evaluation was forged by agency 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.
On appeal to the EEOC, however, the Commission reversed the decision regarding Mrs. Ghannam's claim that she was denied reasonable accommodation when the agency failed to consider her physician's request for assistive technology (voice activation) which would have permitted her to resume her original GS-7 employee development position at the agency. As a result of the violation, the EEOC has ordered the Agency for Internatonal Development (USAID) to:
1. Retroactively re-instate Mrs. Ghannam to her former GS-7 position within 30 days.
2. Award Mrs. Ghannam back pay, with interest for all wages and benefits lost, if any, between the day she was denied reasonable accommodation and the date she returns to duty at the agency/or declines reinstatement--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 for this 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. Mrs. Ghannam was awarded attorney fees as well.
Mrs. Ghannam noted that: "This ruling and the relief that I received is a victory for all working women who struggle everday to have their workplace concerns heard. It recognizes the tremendous financial and emotional cost involved when dealing with the dirty tactics of some employers. Groups like 9 to 5 (The National Association of Working Women) were very supportive during this lengthy EEOC hearing process." Mrs. Ghannam says that she plans to write a book about her experiences and continue to speak out about relevant workplace discrimination around the country.
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