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TSA Found Liable for Discrimination

An EEOC administrative judge from the Baltimore field office recently issued a decision in favor of complainant Linda G. Gaston, who is represented by Debra A. D’Agostino, finding the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), liable for sex discrimination.

Ms. Gaston was a K-Band (GS-15 equivalent) supervisor in the Office of Information Technology (OIT). Pursuant to a reorganization in 2004, TSA: 1) removed Ms. Gaston’s supervisory authority and Assistant Director title; 2) made Ms. Gaston subordinate to her male peer; 3) reassigned Ms. Gaston’s major customer to a recently promoted male’s directorate, leaving her with menial tasks to do; and 4) relocated Ms.

Gaston’s workspace from a private office to an interior cubicle. Despite TSA’s claims that it removed Ms. Gaston from her position because there were “a number of unnecessary high-grade positions” and nobody left to supervise, a chart provided by the TSA showed that only Ms. Gaston lost her supervisory authority during the reorganization. Additionally, other documents showed TSA hired nine supervisory employees after the reorganization, all of whom were male.

The former Chief Information Officer (CIO), former deputy CIO, and current deputy CIO, among other high-level supervisors, testified at the hearing for this matter. The administrative judge determined after listening to the testimony that “the procedure for assigning complainant duties and responsibilities following the reorganization is so fraught with inconsistencies, contradictions, and lack of credibility as to render the entire process a farce and a sham, the apparent purpose of which was to diminish or reduce complainant’s authority and stature within the organization.”

The Commission, along with vast majority of the circuit courts, has interpreted St. Mary’s Honor Center v. Hicks, 113 S.Ct. 2742 (1993), to mean that evidence sufficient to discredit an employer’s proffered nondiscriminatory reasons for its actions, taken together with the complainant’s prima facie case, is sufficient to support a finding of discrimination. See McCoy v. Secretary of Defense, EEOC Appeal No. 01956826 (1997); Finklea v. Postmaster General, EEOC Request No. 05940134 (1994) (holding that Hicks held that once the trier of fact rejects the employer’s proffered reasons, no additional proof is required); Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 147-148 (2000). Thus, the administrative judge found Ms. Gaston was entitled to prevail based on “the lack of credibility of management’s articulated reasons” for TSA’s treatment of her even though there was no evidence of specific discriminatory animus.

The administrative judge awarded to Ms. Gaston, who had retired prior to the hearing, $25,000 in compensatory damages and reimbursement of attorney’s fees. The administrative judge also ordered TSA to provide EEO training to all responsible management officials and to post a notice to the employees stating that a violation of Title VII had occurred in that facility.