THE FEDS AND THEIR DISABILITY RIGHTS
By: Wendy Ghannam
February 17, 2003
While President Bush is advancing American interests overseas in Iraq, hoping to overthrow President Saddam Hussein in the process, there is much controversy brewing right around his own back door near the Oval Office in Washington DC. A report has been recently finalized by the National Council on Disability that fully recognizes the U.S. Federal Government is one of the most diabolical, discriminatory entities ever entrusted to protect American workers under disability rights laws and legislation, especially laws contained in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The National Council on Disability (NCD) is an independent federal agency charged with the mandate of pinpointing problems that abound in U.S. disability legislation, and how they impact disabled Americans in civil society as a whole. Fifteen members comprise this agency and they must answer yearly to the U.S. Senate, who formally confirm their seats on the NCD panel. Notwithstanding these measures, apparently the Council has found some very interesting statistics upon which to outline their current report claims: 1) the U.S. Federal Government does not have any systematic manner to track and investigate hiring complaints when based on disability resulting in inconsistent legal enforcements of any kind; 2) Federal agencies also have never policed themselves when confronted with the Rehabilitation Act of 1973--and the U.S. Congress has allowed certain instances to happen regarding non-protection of federal workers who become disabled and have problems maintaining their careers.
Since Uncle Sam is categorically remaining complicit in these endeavors, the Council sees a legal system badly in need of an overhaul--and very quickly. In their current report, five U.S. agencies were investigated and probed: Justice, Education, Labor, Health & Human Services, and State Departments of these agencies, the U.S. State Department fared worse for not living up to the standards set forth in disability rights legislation earmarked pertinent to America's workforce within the country today. The Council is advocating that President Bush increase funding immediately regarding civil rights enforcement.
This is an interesting article, because its author has been legally tied into a historical Catch 22 with one of the State Department's "sister" agencies, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Wendy Ghannam won a landmark employment claim against USAID back in Year 2000, relative to the fact that the agency refused to ergonically accommodate her needs on the job, as well as other USAID women who complained and brought measurable instances of carpal tunnel/repetitive stress injuries forward, due to the agency's dynamic influx of computer technology and software. However, in Ghannam's case she was fired from USAID the moment she brought forward her allegations to its Inspector General, Jeffrey Rush, Jr. and became a whistleblower back in 1996 (Mrs. Ghannam also notes--for purposes of this article--that the U.S. Federal Government is EXEMPT from heeding legislative mandates encased within the Americans With Disabilities Act, as well. She discovered this rude awakening when dealing with the Office of Workmen's Compensation Programs./U.S. Department of Labor in the late 1990's.). Only the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 offers any systematic protection for the federal civil servant today!!
In the late 1990's, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel was no help to Wendy Ghannam either. Following a two-month investigation, they swept her concerns "under the rug" because it would have opened up a complete "Pandora's Box" regarding women's working rights and their ability to keep and maintain their jobs, once they become disabled and could not do data entry work any longer. Up to now, USAID has been refusing Workmen's Compensation claims from its employees in many instances, and has been forcing its working women to retire early or quit--or--like Ghannam--be fired. USAID maintained in an EEOC documentation that they had "no money" to concentrate on the ergonomics of working women inside the agency since they realize that carpal tunnel/repetitive stress will impact 60 percent of working women over their working lifetime.
Now this NCD report comes into existence and questions have to be answered, and Wendy Ghannam will now have to be paid for the totally destroyed federal career she once served and enjoyed within the federal ranks. The NCD probably does not know of Wendy Ghannam's case at the EEOC, but rest assured there are other working women at USAID who followed in her footsteps and decided to litigate for their employment rights as well. Strangely enough, the NCD did not focus on working women as a category, but it did reflect on the waste and absurdity of earmarking disability legislation with contentious agencies having no personal regard for the employees they are bound under law to protect.
But then, Wendy Ghannam could have told them all about the clandestine measures used by unscrupulous agency Human Resources management folks--if they had just contacted her, as they finalized the results of their NCD Report for President Bush last week.
Wendy Ghannam may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for her unique insights as to what is truly transpiring inside the Federal Government today--as it impacts the federal workforce. She is also available for speeches around the country, so that American taxpayers can know the truth in a positive framework. Her book, Web of Betrayal is soon to be published, and will outline the details of what she encountered litigating USAID at the EEOC, U.S. Office of Special Counsel, the U.S. Merit Systems Board, and U.S. District Court in Washington DC, earmarking the win of her federally employed working rights.
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