August 22, 2012

9TH CIRCUIT RULES BULLOCK V. BERRIEN CAN GO FORWARD

by Art Gutman Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

The ruling was handed down on July 30, 2012 and overturns the lower court (see http://www.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2012/07/30/10-55866.pdf). The facts are that Mary Bullock, who worked as an administrative law judge (ALJ) for the EEOC from 1999 to 2007, filed an administrative complaint under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Bullock, who has multiple sclerosis (MS) and lupus, alleged that the EEOC retaliated against her for requesting accommodations for her MS. According to Bullock, the EEOC not only rejected her request to work at home, but also, imposed tighter deadlines compared to similarly situated non-disabled employees. The ALJ who heard the complaint awarded Bullock $25,000 in damages, $108.680 in attorney fees, and $7,823.24 in costs. Bullock, who was not satisfied, filed suit in district court, as did the EEOC. However, the district court ruled for the EEOC on a technicality (that Bullock did not wait the requisite 180 days to go to court). The ruling by the 9th Circuit is that Bullock did not have to wait because of her timely filing of an administrative complaint, meaning either there will be a settlement, or the case will be tried on its merits.

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