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BOP Loses Disability Discrimination Suit Filed by Prison Guard

The Bureau of Prisons has been found to have discriminated against a prison guard on the basis of physical disability.

Keith E. Beck, a GS-7 prison guard at Federal Correctional Institution Terminal Island, California, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on April 15, 1995 alleging discrimination on the basis of disability. In his complaint, Beck alleged that he twisted his knee, and "was advised by a [sic] orthopaedic [sic] doctor to stay off it. (with sepsific [sic] limitations)." Beck alleged discrimination because the Bureau of Prisons was "having difficulity [sic] accommadatimg [sic] me!" For corrective action, Beck requested "termation [sic] of all involled [sic] persons" and "a monatary [sic] payment for pain, suffering, and aggravating my condison [sic]."

Beck's grammatically challenged complaint was heard by Administrative Judge Ralph D. H. Fertig on January 29, 1997. The judge found that Beck's knee was injured while on active duty with the Marine Corps Reserve, that multiple doctors prescribed restricted duty, and that over a period of several years the Bureau failed to accommodate his physical disability, as required by 29 U.S.C. § 791, et seq.

Specifically, Judge Fertig found that positions which would have accommodated Beck were available at FCI Terminal Island, such as the tower, the front lobby and the records office. Instead of offering Beck one of these positions, as required by law, FCI Terminal Island Lieutenant Leon Rosborough told him that "if he wanted to work, he should get to work," and that "[if] you're not going to work (beyond the restrictions), go home." Associate Warden Glenn Trammel, whose credibility the judge found seriously questionable, further told Beck that he "needs to suck it up."

Captain Roman Kulawiec, who also testified on behalf of the Bureau, was found by the judge to be evasive and to have questionable credibility.

As a result of orders from Bureau of Prisons personnel that he work beyond the restrictions set forth by his doctors, Judge Fertig found that the health of Beck's knee continually declined, resulting in four surgeries.

The administrative decision in favor of Beck was forwarded to the Department of Justice Complaint Adjudication Office on March 31, 1997 for issuance of a final decision. Administrative Judge Fertig's decision was upheld. The final decision ordered the Bureau to consider Beck for a job pursuant to its reasonable accommodation obligations, granted Beck backpay and compensatory damages, and awarded him attorney's fees.

The Bureau of Prisons then filed a request for reconsideration with the EEOC, which was denied on October 13, 2000. Carlton M. Hadden, Director of the Office of Federal Operations for the EEOC, ordered the payment of Beck's overdue back pay, $125,000.00 in compensatory damages, and $7,812.50 in attorney's fees.

Beck was represented by Seal Beach, California attorney Bruce M. Stark.

The documents from this case were obtained by Prison Legal News after winning a twelve-year-long battle with the Bureau of Prisons over a Freedom of Information Act request.

See: EEOC Case No. 340-96-3843x, BOP Agency No. P-95-8687, EEOC Office of Federal Operations No. 01983326.

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Related legal case

EEOC Case No. 340-96-3843x