In an unprecedented decision the US Department of Veterans Affairs admitted
to unlawful discrimination in a
disability discrimination claim brought by the Solomon Law Firm, PLLC on behalf their former federal
employee, Susan Orlando. The VA will reportedly pay compensatory damages,
including back pay, life insurance, and attorney fees to the now deceased
Complainant. Susan Orlando, a long time Federal Employee worked for the
Department of Veterans Affairs for nearly two decades and was a highly
valued and well respected member of the VA Staff who prided herself in
her ability to provide exceptional services for local veterans.
All of this changed when Ms. Orlando requested time off from work to accommodate
a surgery she needed for a hip replacement. The hip replacement surgery
was necessary to emolliate the pain Ms. Orlando experienced on a daily
basis as a result of a degenerative disc disease. Ms. Orlando used an
electronic scooter for mobility as her disability created significant
pain and impaired her ability to walk. She had previously undergone a
hip replacement to alleviate the pain associated with her degenerative
disc disease and experienced a dramatic improvement in quality of life.
Much like the prior hip replacement, this surgery was expected to alleviate
the significant pain she experienced on a daily basis.
When Susan requested leave from work for the surgery, her supervisor at
the West Palm Beach, VA Medical Center denied the request and threatened
to terminate Susan's employment if she was absent from work for the
surgery. As an alternative to immediate
termination, Susan's supervisor directed her to retire immediately. Ultimately,
Susan retired in lieu of termination, but not before contacting an
EEO counselor and reporting her supervisor's threats of termination for her disability
Susan Orlando resigned and never returned to the West Palm Beach VA Medical
Center. Although previously having a successful hip surgery, Susan Orlando
died unexpectedly in recovery as a result of the undue stress by her supervisor's
willful and intentional discrimination.
"My mother was devastated. My mother was an exceptional person, human
being, and professional. Even though her physical condition caused her
significant pain, she never complained, and always had an exceptional
outlook on life. I had always known my mother to be upbeat, charismatic,
and most of all, strong. The actions of my Mother's supervisor changed
that. My mother gave the VA the better part of her career, and in turn
they took her dignity and her life." said, Thomas Orlando, Susan
Orlando's son who continued the
failure to accommodate and constructive discharge action on Susan's behalf after her untimely death.
The VA agreed that the West Palm Beach Supervisor discriminated against
Ms. Orlando and offered to pay compensatory damages, pecuniary damages,
costs, and fees, in an amount which is expected to exceed $100,000.