Tell the H.E.L.P Senate Committee to Make Federal Employment Equal and Safe For People With Autism/ Mental Disabilities
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Former FDA Consumer Safety Officer, Stacey A. Meyer is seeking a petition of a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States due April 21st, 2015. She is also seeking to unite special interest groups as amicus curiae to file a brief in support of this case.
Her prayer and plight is to bring change to “how” and “who”, neutral third party, handles the requests for reasonable accommodations for individuals with invisible or barely visible mental or developmental disabilities. Often times, the employee with a developmental or mental disability cannot advocate for themselves or even know “what” types of accommodations the employer could make for them. The very essence of their disability impedes them from requesting or speaking up for themselves. Additionally, if the decision making process is left to an employee’s first, second or third level supervisor, a conflict of interest or negative biases will ultimately impact “how”, “if” and “what” the employer will provide for the qualified disabled employee seeking relief. Now, the employee is left exposed, vulnerable and if not valued subjected to resentful and/or discriminatory treatment.
Everyone knows someone who has autism either through direct interaction or indirectly. It affects all of us and unless we stand united together injustices will continue to be committed against individuals with autism whether they are children at home, in school or adults in pursuit of the American dream, gainful employment and independent living.
Stacey was a proud public servant for the United States Government for 17 years. She was terminated “because of” the mental disabilities she suffers from on July 15, 2011. The last position she held was with the Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration as a Consumer Safety Officer regulating the imported commodities, primarily foods, which enter into our domestic commerce.
She was a loyal, trustworthy, dedicated and hard-working individual despite her mental disabilities (panic attacks, major depression, social anxiety, avoidant personality disorder, dependant personality disorder and sensory processing disorders). It is more than likely, because of these traits and symptoms, that she falls under the autistic spectrum disorders. The disabilities listed are co-morbidities of the autism. She is a 46 year old woman and often, especially women, do not find out until much later in life.
She has been in litigation for 3 ½ years and this process has intensified her health issues and put her in financial ruin. She has lost everything through all of the litigation expenses.
She never had her day in court with the administrative judge in the Merit Systems Protection Board, because her trial attorneys led her to believe that the Administrative Judge was going to rule against her and for the defendant the Department of Health and Human Services. Under their guidance, she withdrew from the MSPB process and filed a civil employment lawsuit in the Southern District of Florida in early July of 2012. Her day in court was slated for the first two weeks of December 2013. On November 15, 2013 the defendant moved for Summary Judgment on all four counts and the District Judge Cecilia Altonaga dismissed all 4 counts and closed the case.
The four counts: Count I – Discrimination based on disability for Meyer’s termination in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. sections 701-791b; Count II Discrimination based on disability for the FDA’s failure to accommodate Meyer’s disability in violation of the Rehabilitation Act; Count III – Retaliatory termination against Meyer for engaging in a protected activity in violation of the Rehabilitation Act; and Count IV – Discrimination based on gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1064, 42 U.S.C. section 2000e-2(a) (“Title VII”) Case No. 12-22666-CIV-ALTONAGA/Simonton.
HHS admitted that she is a “qualified individual with a disability” under the Rehabilitation Act. The only hurdle that she appears to be facing in the court of law is that the DHHS terminated her under the “guise” that she broke a policy, misuse of a Government Owned Vehicle GOV and misrepresentation of her time and attendance by performing “fieldwork” in the field. She worked from within the GOV to escape the inadequate cubicle, high foot traffic and its location to supervisor William Keck. The court is hinging on the fact that she was not terminated “solely, because of” her disabilities.
She revealed her mental disabilities to her first and second line supervisors, respectively, William Keck and Florida Director of Imports Branch, Facundo Bernal. She requested a minimal reasonable accommodations through the EEOC process a flexible any 80 hour schedule. In September 2010, Bernal called a meeting to create the facade that he was willingly engaging in the interactive process that the American with Disabilities and the Rehabilitation Act envisions. This process is a give and take between employee and employer is to determine the exact limitations and to consider what types of accommodations might help the otherwise qualified individual effectively perform the job. This process is also ongoing not a one stop deal. The needs of the individual may change through time or circumstances. Bernal used this meeting as a platform , as a pretext, not to discuss her needs for accommodations, but instead ridiculed and mocked her limitations surrounding her conditions: 1) interacting with others 2) concentration and 3) inability to learn new things. Bernal called her a “liability” during the meeting and flat out stated he did not think she was qualified for the position. Bernal questioned her abilities to do fieldwork, drive a GOV and interact with the officials at the firms FDA regulates. Stacey experienced a panic attack and became overwhelmed when Bernal called her a “liability” and publicly humiliated her in front of the other five individuals involved in the meeting. This disrespect of Stacey as a human being and as a contributing employee to the department caused irrevocable damage to her. Stacey’s behavior, “avoidant” followed after this contemptuous treatment. Even though Bernal did not think she could do the fieldwork, he chose to leave her in that very environment to fester her conditions. Union representatives brought up various accommodations during the meeting, including inner office duties (i.e. entry review and filer evaluations). Those duties are within the position of her former position and there are individuals that are not disabled performing those duties exclusively. Rotation into the inner office duties would have allowed Stacey to decompress from the continual flux of sensory and social engagement countered performing fieldwork.
EEOC strongly advised Bernal to grant the any 80 hour schedule and offer FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) as an additional accommodation. Basically, because of the EEOC laws, Bernal reluctantly granted the any 80 hour schedule, but never mentioned to Stacey about invoking her FMLA right. Only 3 weeks later, Bernal unilaterally changed the accommodation, to a First 40 schedule, without consultation with the EEOC. He notified her of the change without union representation and did not engage in a discussion for alternative accommodations. This schedule conceptually looked similar to the 80 hour, but was quite different and was difficult in application. Stacey volunteered every other weekend to perform entry review, remotely, and counted on those hours for the 80 hour pay period. After this change to her schedule Stacey “shutdown”.
In November 2010 Stacey’s reasonable accommodation needs changed when the import personnel relocated to a larger building. Stacey’s cubicle in the previous office was a secluded partitioned cubicle. The new cubicle was an open space just outside Keck’s office. Because of the new exposed cubicle, her conditions became exacerbated with sensory overload and a change of routine, important for autistics, and the proximity to Keck’s office. This cubicle became a contaminated area for her. Stacey began to experience panic attacks while sitting there and within eyesight of Keck. Stacey’s previous involvement, with Keck, incited emotions that triggered these panic attacks and extreme anxiety. As a new accommodation, she asked Keck for a different cubicle reassignment and was denied and mocked. Stacey was trying to stay gainfully employed at the same time she was being mistreated and dealing with all the triggers causing her health to deteriorate. This cubicle affected her concentration and anxiety levels. Stacey began to avoid this space at all costs. Keck, on many occasions mocked her limitations regarding her disabilities by exclaiming “What’s a matter can’t you concentrate at this desk?” Keck also made reference to one of her limitations, social communication, by making inflammatory comments “If you shake your ass I know you won’t have any problems while out in the field”. Instead of reporting these inflammatory comments to the EEOC or third or fourth level supervisors, she mistakenly, because of her conditions, stayed silent. Staying silent for too long ultimately caused her termination.
After visiting the importing firms Stacey would continue the “fieldwork” at a small park one block across from the office to perform administrative duties, which is not uncommon, within the “safe” space of the GOV or on the park bench. She used the GOV as a satellite office. She also combined her lunch and two – 15 minute breaks while at the park. The flexible schedule was requested and granted, although modified, for exactly this reason to flex her schedule when needed. Stacey chose to avoid the cubicle triggering her panic attacks and work from the field. She also utilized the hour break to walk decompressing from the sensory overload and prepare to return to the contaminated cubicle. Her first and second line supervisors believed she was taking too long out in the field, so allegedly Keck did surveillance for 4 days while she performed fieldwork. Instead of questioning her or asking if her disabilities were causing difficulties while driving or performing the fieldwork, they contacted her third line supervisor, Emma Singleton who allegedly contacted the Office of Internal Affairs (OIA) to conduct an investigation. These managers, Facundo I. Bernal and William M. Keck were so derelict of their duties as the Florida’s Director of Import Operations Branch and as a Supervisory Consumer Safety Officer making over $100,000 each annually neither offered to discuss what was causing Stacey’s delay doing the fieldwork. From the reasonable accommodation meeting held only 1 ½ months earlier both officers gleaned that Stacey was a qualified individual with a disability and struggled with the limitations of 1) social communication 2) concentration and 3) ability to learn new things but neither cared enough to try to engage Stacey when they both noticed a difference in her behavior after moving to the new office. This clearly demonstrates their disregard and animosity for Stacey’s limitations and as an employee in general. Their number one action should have been for her welfare and safety under their purview. This gave them the ability to remove Stacey from her federal career under the pretext that she violated a policy.
The investigation through a GPS, of course, confirmed that she was going to the park across the street. Stacey was fired under the pretext that she misused a GOV and that she did not perform work while at this park.
Stacey timely appealed, Case No. 13-15685-BB, to the 11th Circuit, on December 13th, 2013. On November 17, 2014 the 11th Circuit Judges: Chief Judge Ed Carnes, Gerald Tjoflat and Adalberto Jordan per curiam AFFIRMED the lower court’s ruling as a matter of law stating that there were no material facts in dispute for a trial jury to decide. Stacey’s trial attorneys and appeal attorney have raised several significant material facts of dispute that collectively; together create a mosaic of circumstantial evidence. These facts should be left to a jury of her peers to decide if there was intentional retaliation and/or discrimination for seeking a reasonable accommodation for her disabilities.
The case has many, many more tiles, components to it, that taken together demonstrate intentional discriminatory and retaliatory actions from her first line supervisor, William M. Keck and her second line supervisor, Facundo I. Bernal. Quite prudent to this case is a glaring conflict of interest that has been disregarded and over-looked intentionally. Count IV, gender discrimination, was not appealed to the 11th circuit and is therefore not considered. However, if a jury heard her case in its entirety; the perjuries committed by Keck, about any former relationship, sexually, with Stacey would illustrate his lack of candor. Also the perjuries from the Director, Bernal that he never called Stacey a “liability” and even openly admitted that it was wrong when he unilaterally changed her accommodation, justice could be served.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP:
Please write, call, email and tweet the following individuals to change the outcome of my case and life. President Barack Obama, DHHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D) - FL, Florida District Director Susan Turcovski and the United States Attorney for Appellee Wilfredo A. Ferrer. If you decide to tweet, justice4stacey.com, please include the hashtag #justice4stacey #accountability #williamkeck and #facundobernal.
The message is simple: Stacey deserves justice and her right to a jury trial.
You can reach the President Barack Obama at:
The White House
Attention: President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
You can reach U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D) - FL at:
Office of Senator Bill Nelson
225 East Robinson Street, Suite 410
Orlando, Florida 32801
Phone: (407) 872-7161
You can reach my congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz at:
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz Congresswoman D. Wasserman-Schultz
118 Cannon H.O.B. 10100 Pines Blvd
Washington, DC 20515 Pembroke Pines, FL 33026
Phone: (202)225-7931 Phone: (954)437-3936
You can reach the DHHS Secretary, Sylvia Mathews Burwell at:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Attention: Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell
200 Independence Ave. SW
Washington DC 20201
You can reach the FDA Commissioner, Margaret A. Hamburg at:
Food and Drug Administration
Attention: Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg
10903 New Hampshire Avenue
WO1 RM2219 HF-01
Silver Spring, MD 20993-0002
You can reach the FDA Regional Director, Anne Reid at:
Food and Drug Administration
Attention: Regional Director Anne Reid
60 Eighth Street
DO-ATL Annex1 RM214 HFR-SE1
Atlanta, GA 30309
You can reach the Florida District Director, Susan M. Turcovski at
Food and Drug Administration
555 Winderley Place
2nd Floor, Suite 200
Maitland, FL 32751
You can reach U.S. Attorney Wilfredo A. Ferrer at:
US Attorneys Office Southern District Office
99 NE 4th St
Miami, FL 33132-2131
Thank-you everyone for your help and support! Without you I won't make a difference.
- FDA Florida District Director
We, the undersigned, agree that Ms. Stacey Meyer was mistreated, discriminated and retaliated against by her first and second line supervisors, respectively, William Keck and Facundo Bernal. Ms. Meyer should have not been terminated for seeking relief for her condition. The agency's officials failed her by not properly addressing her limitations and offering proper accommodations.
The Department of Health and Human Services/Food and Drug Administration should make the right decision: to reinstate Ms. Meyer with proper Reasonable Accommodations of her choice and allow her to complete her time in service. If unable to accommodate Ms. Meyer's limitations the agency should offer federal disability retirement.
We, the undersigned, call on congress to initiate a full and impartial investigation into the treatment of Ms. Meyer after she disclosed her disability by requesting reasonable accommodations, formally, through the EEOC process. The treatment she received after full disclosure from William Keck and Facundo Bernal needs to be addressed by a third party investigation (OIA, OIG, OSC, DOJ). We further call for the investigation to be free of bias.
We , the undersigned, also call on congress to modify the Interactive process in regard to employment reasonable acommodation(s). The ADA was created to protect individuals with disabilities at school, employment, transportation, public accommodation, communications, and governmental activities. The decision making process should not be left to an employee's supervisors. This creates a conflict of interest or negative biases which will ultimately impact “how”, “if” and “what” the employer will provide to the qualified disabled employee seeking a reasonable accommodation. The interactive process should be performed by a third party agency free of bias that will consult with both the employer, employee and employee's physician.
The limitations of the disabled individual should also be taken into account during the structuring of the reasonable accommodation and the interactive process. This is especially significant if the disabled individual suffers from a developmental disability impeding their verbal communication.
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