EEOC finds Agency discriminated against federal employee based on disability. Complainant filed and Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint alleging discrimination on the basis of disability (herniated discs in the back and neck). He alleged he was terminated from his position as a Wildlife Refuge Specialist due to disability. While on active duty in the military, Complainant suffered an injury which resulted in two herniated discs in his neck and two in his lumbar region which affected major life activities. Following this injury, Complainant applied and was selected for a position as a Wildlife Refuge Specialist. In his selection letter, Complainant was informed that he was required to pass a physical examination and a subsequent Physical Efficiency Battery examination (PEB) before he could go for law enforcement training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC). Complainant passed the initial screening and secondary screening with the exception of the “sit and reach” portion of the examination. Complainant was terminated for not being able to perform the “sit and reach” test; however, was offered a contracting position doing the exact same work but without the benefits or leave which he declined. The Agency issued a Final Agency Decision (FAD) concluding that Complainant had failed to prove the Agency subjected him to discrimination, and Complainant appealed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Office of Federal Operations (OFO).

On appeal the OFO first held that Complainant was an individual with a disability, and that the “sit and reach” standard imposed by the Agency was not job-related and consistent with business necessity; therefore, the Complainant was a qualified individual with a disability, and the Agency’s actions were discriminatory. The OFO further held that because the Agency was unable to show that the “sit and reach” standard was job-related and consistent with business necessity, it also failed to establish that it terminated Complainant for a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason and therefore violated the Rehabilitation Act. The OFO reversed the Agency’s FAD and found that the Agency discriminated against Complainant on the basis of disability.

Elden R. v. Department of the Interior, EEOC Appeal No. 0120122672 (February 24, 2017)