Man Sued Over Accessibility In 2002
Is it discrimination...
or the agreed-upon outcome of an earlier court settlement? That's
the question posed by the case of a Miami air traffic controller
who says he received a surprise gift from the FAA for his 50th
birthday: a pink slip.
The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports the agency notified
controller Ray McLeod last week that as of Monday, June 26 --
McLeod's 50th birthday -- he will no longer have the job he's held
for 21 years.
The matter of why that's the case is subject to debate, however.
McLeod -- who uses a wheelchair -- says the FAA is "retaliating"
for a suit he brought against the agency in 2002, for failing to
make his workplace more accessible to the handicapped.
"To be forced out the door without time to prepare, to me,
that's just not right," McLeod said. "I still have financial
responsibilities and bills."
Not surprisingly, the FAA denies McLeod's accusation that the
agency is retaliating against him for his lawsuit -- but rather
that it was an agreed-upon outcome from a subsequent court
settlement reached between the two parties. Upon turning 50, an FAA
spokesman said, McLeod is eligible to receive his pension -- and
his birthday is also the date the FAA can let him go.
"The agency takes great pride to create a positive environment
for employees who have disability concerns," said FAA spokesman
McLeod was paralyzed in a 1975 motorcycle accident. After
undergoing rehabilitation, he worked as an airline dispatcher for
10 years, before being hired on as a controller at Miami
There, McLeod says, he struggled to work in an environment not
suited to the needs of the wheelchair-bound. The matter got worse
when in 2000, the center installed new radar displays too low
squeeze his wheelchair under.
McLeod first filed a complaint with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission, then a lawsuit in US District Court in
Miami. The FAA opted to settle the suit, allowing McLeod to
continue working as an assistant controller -- until the first day
he was eligible for retirement.
McLeod said his interpretation of the clause was that he could
continue working for the FAA in another position.
"There have been other controllers who are no longer capable of
working air traffic for medical reasons, who have been assigned
other jobs," he said.
"After being a good employee for 20-plus years, it's just no way
for anybody to be treated."