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Iraq vet wins $75,000 for disability discrimination by the FBI

The goal of our nation’s laws against discrimination is simply to give qualified people a fair chance at obtaining the employment they’re interested in. All most people want is an opportunity to prove they’re qualified to do the work and, if they are, have an equal shot at getting hired and fair treatment from their employers. Workplace discrimination takes those chances away.

It’s especially troubling when a federal agency offers a square deal but then suddenly pulls it away. That’s what happened to an Army vet who lost his left hand serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, then left the military to pursue his dream of being an FBI agent. After being fitted with a prosthesis, he went to school at night to get the degree he needed to get hired. Four years later, he was rewarded with an invitation to the special agent program’s basic training in Quantico, Virginia.

One of the requirements for passing the basic training program is marksmanship, which was no problem. The FBI has an additional firearms training requirement however: special agents must also be able to competently shoot five rounds with their non-dominant hands, just in case their dominant hands should be injured during a firefight. In the vet’s case, his non-dominant hand was his prosthesis.

Could he do it? Absolutely. He developed a technique to shoot the required five rounds with his prosthesis and was considered a “top-tier” student in firearms class, according to an instructor’s testimony. He also passed several other tests he says were not required of the other students, and training staff treated him like an outsider, he says.

Even after proving that his disability wouldn’t stand in his way, the FBI said they simply couldn’t approve of his methods and dismissed him from the program, however. Claiming that he could conceivably bump the trigger on his gun with the prosthesis, his instructor ordered him to shoot only with his right hand, which disqualified him from further training.

Feeling this was a clear case of disability discrimination, the vet filed a lawsuit. A federal jury has just found that he was indeed the victim of illegal workplace discrimination and awarded him $75,000 in damages. Now, a federal judge will determine whether that means he should be readmitted to the special agent training program.

At the moment, the vet works for the FBI’s hostage-rescue team, which doesn’t have a problem with his prosthesis. He still wants a fair chance at being a special agent, though.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Amputee Veteran Nails FBI on Discrimination,” Jack Bouboushian, Aug. 12, 2013

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