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EEOC claims federal contractor retaliated against employee with disability

A Prince George’s County contractor that provides personnel to the State Department has been accused of retaliating against an employee who was pursuing a complaint against the department and required accommodations for a disability.

MSDS Consultant Services LLC was accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act stemming from the termination of LaRufus Mitchell in October 2016, according to a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The lawsuit, filed last week, claims MSDS’s stated reason for firing Mitchell — her ongoing complaint with the State Department constituted a conflict of interest — “a pretext for unlawful discrimination and/or retaliation.”

Mitchell had trained with the State Department as a special agent in 2013 but was dismissed from the program shortly before graduation due to her failure to complete a timed run without accommodations, according to the EEOC lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. Mitchell filed her own complaint and was moved to a civilian position.

MSDS hired Mitchell in April 2014 and she continued in her position with the State Department while her complaint was pending, filing in federal court in the fall of 2015. MSDS learned about the complaint after hiring her, according to the EEOC lawsuit.

After Mitchell’s post-traumatic stress and panic disorders were triggered when shots were fired at her vehicle as she entered her apartment’s parking garage, her doctor recommended time off work then a gradual return, including accommodations like teleworking, according to the complaint.

As Mitchell went on leave and while she was out, the EEOC alleges MSDS chastised her for not informing them of her ongoing complaint against the State Department and said it put the company “in a difficult position,” according to the lawsuit. Her accommodations were denied and she was ordered to report to her job site once her leave ended.

Mitchell returned to work but her symptoms worsened and a new plan to gradually return her to the office was proposed by her doctor, the lawsuit states. She was told to return full time by 2016 or she would be fired and all future accommodation requests would be denied. She returned but was fired Oct. 3.

The complaint contends that MSDS subjected Mitchell to “disparate terms and conditions,” a hostile work environment, failed to make reasonable accommodations and terminated her because of her disability. The EEOC sent a letter of determination finding reasonable cause the ADA was violated in April.

The lawsuit seeks injunctive relief, back pay, reinstatement or front pay, and punitive damages.

The case is U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. MSDS Consultant Services LLC, 8:18-cv-02917.

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