Sanctions Abound for the U.S. Department of the Navy

Attorney, Ariel Solomon with the Solomon Law Firm, PLLC recently secured a default judgment and sanctions against the United States Department of the Navy in a matter involving the Agency's discrimination and constructive discharge of long standing employee on the basis of her disability.

The unprecedented decision granted the Solomon Law Firm, PLLC 's motion for a default judgment due to the Navy's continued and pervasive disregard for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's orders as well as the letter and spirit of the anti-discrimination laws which require Federal Agencies to investigate and develop a factual record of formal discrimination complaints raised by Federal Employees within 180-days of filing.

The Federal Employee and Complainant in this particular matter, alleged that the Department of the Navy engaged in unlawful discrimination when it failed to accommodate her disability and constructively dischargedher employment following her myriad requests for reasonable accommodation. Notably, the Complainant was given work assignments outside the scope of her position description and the Federal Employee's supervisor created a working environment that was so hostile that the Complainant was forced to prematurely resign her position.

In the Agency's Response to the motion for sanctions, there was no argument against the allegations that it failed to conduct a timely investigation; however, various justifications were set forth. The Navy claimed that the solitary EEO person responsible for the investigation of the Complainant's case, and others, had personal circumstances that arose which prevented a timely investigation of all formal discrimination complaints, effectively closing its EEO office. In its Order granting the motion for a default judgment and sanctions, the Commission rejected the justifications set forth by the Navy and adopted Ariel Solomon's argument in its entirety, which argued that the Agency knew of the deficiency, yet failed to correct its unlawful actions.

In a firmly worded decision, the Chief Administrative Law Judge reaffirmed the Commission's authority to sanction federal agencies for their noncompliance, citing to Royal v. Department of Veterans Affairs; Appeal No. 0520080052 (September 25, 2009) and 29 C.F.R. Part 1614, which grants the Commission that authority which if necessary to carry out its charge of eradicating discrimination in the federal sector.

In granting Attorney Solomon's motion, the Chief Judge held that based upon the extent (and nature) of the Agency's non-compliance, the prejudicial effect (including a delay in justice) and the effect on the integrity of the EEO process, and the arguments set forth in the motion for a sanctions, a default judgment was warranted.