JOREN v. NAPOLITANO (February 7, 2011)
Verlaine Joren was a security screener with theTransportation Security Administration (TSA) at Midway Airport in Chicago. At the age of 63, Smith claimed to have a condition that limited her ability to stand or walk. She asked her supervisor for accommodations, including a relocation to Florida and schedule modifications. Her supervisor was skeptical of her complaints and refused her requests. Joren claims that he even refused to reassign her a "safe distance" from an x-ray machine when she temporarily had a heart monitor without a doctor's clarification of "safe distance." Joren resigned her position in January 2004 after her supervisor confronted her regarding a Social Security claim she had filed. Joren filed suit pursuant to Title VII and the Rehabilitation Act, alleging age, gender, and disability discrimination and retaliation. Judge Bucklo (N.D. Ill.) dismissed the complaint, holding that Joren failed to state a cause of action under Title VII and that her Rehabilitation Act claim was foreclosed by the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA). Joren appeals
In their opinion, Judges Rovner, Evans, and Williams affirmed. First, the Court stated that the gender and age discrimination claims were properly dismissed because Joren's complaint did not suggest that gender or age motivated her employer's actions. Instead, the complaint linked those actions exclusively to her disability. Federal employees’ disability claims are generally governed by the Rehabilitation Act, but Congress passed the ATSA after the September 11 attacks. The ATSA established the TSA and gave the Under Secretary of Transportation for Security the authority to hire and fire "[n]otwithstanding any other provision of law." The Court agreed with the other circuits that have considered the question that the "notwithstanding" language meant that the Rehabilitation Act’s disability discrimination prohibitions did not apply to TSA employees.