OCALA – The U.S. District Court in the Middle District of Florida recently granted a Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit filed by a former VA police officer who claimed he became a victim of job discrimination and retaliation after he had shot himself in the finger.
In a Feb. 7 ruling, U.S. District Judge Marcia Morales Howard also denied a motion for summary judgment filed by the officer, Raymond B. Baldwin, in the case.
In his lawsuit, Baldwin alleged that VA Secretary Robert Wilkie and the VA discriminated against him when it transferred him from a police officer position to a non-law enforcement position after the VA decided he was unfit to serve as an officer after Baldwin had shot himself in the finger. Baldwin alleged he was subject to a fit for duty evaluation (FFDE) that led to the discriminatory and retaliatory transfer and he also suffered in a hostile work environment, all of which violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 and U.S.C. section 794.
Baldwin accused the VA of discriminating against him, claiming he was forced to undergo a psychological exam in which the psychologist was given false information about him; had to suffer the psychological FFDE without an actual reason; and he was denied reasonable accommodations when his physician gave him the green light to return to work.
The court determined Baldwin could not prove that he actually had a disability after his injury. While the VA didn’t challenge the notion that Baldwin had a disability to begin with, a disagreement arose over whether the injury he suffered was severe enough to be considered a disability.
“Because Baldwin cannot establish he falls within the definition of an ‘individual with a disability,’ based on a perceived disability, he is unable to make out a prima facie case of a disability discrimination on that basis,” the court said. The court also said the record indicates Baldwin was not qualified for a police officer position and failed to show that the VA discriminated against him because of his alleged disability.
Regarding Baldwin’s claims concerning accommodations, the court said an employer does not have to give reasonable accommodation to an employee that isn’t a qualified individual with a disability, and in this case, Baldwin fits that description.
The court also found that Baldwin's retaliation claims fell short.