People With Disabilities Triumph Over Discrimination in Foreign Service — Impact Fund

The State Department flouted the Rehabilitation Act, which requires the agency to determine whether someone can do the job with reasonable accommodations.  I did not need accommodation, except possibly air conditioning, something already provided by State. Despite this, my medical clearance was rejected outright.  Most people lose their opportunity to pursue justice because they are not aware of the narrow 45-day window to file an EEO claim. I was extremely lucky to connect with Bryan, because he had the moral conviction to take on my case when many other attorneys declined.

At times, fighting for my basic rights was demoralizing as State filed many motions to try to dismiss my case, before and after it became a class action– motions which the EEO Commission repeatedly denied.  But these victories bolstered my conviction. Although during the course of this lawsuit, there were times I wanted to quit, Bryan cheered me on, pointing out my responsibility to the Class and reassuring me of his undying belief that we would prevail. 

When I learned an acceptable settlement had been reached, I vacillated between laughing and crying while I danced around my living room. Dancing is something I would not have been able to do had I let MS beat me down.  Only now, almost a year later, am I beginning to realize how much stress this lawsuit caused me. With each day that passes, I feel able to reclaim lost parts of myself, peeling away the layers of shame piled upon me, from State’s initial rejection of me as not “good enough” because I have MS, to their 17 year refusal to fix an outdated policy. I suspect it will be many years, if ever, before I fully recover from the damage the discrimination did to my core sense of self.

Soon, I will reach the age limit when foreign service officers must retire. Perhaps I will write about my experience as Alison Palmer did after her 37 year fight for gender equality at State. Others should never give up when they encounter the injustice of discrimination. I am thankful for the blessings of heroes who stood by me in this battle against injustice, and in particular, the excellent legal representation and Bryan’s unfaltering belief in the eventual outcome.  The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

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