Disabled Veteran Wins Landmark Discrimination Suit Against FBI

Disabled Vet Wins Discrimination Case Against FBI

Many veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have found re-entering the workforce tough. It's well known that discrimination is rampant, especially against wounded warriors. Still, the latest employer to have lost a lawsuit filed by a disabled soldier may come as a surprise: the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

After two tours of duty in Iran and one in Afghanistan, Army Ranger Justin Slaby lost his left hand when a stun grenade prematurely exploded in a training exercise in 2004, according to court papers. He had always dreamed of being an FBI agent. It was one of Slaby's doctors who suggested that he apply to the FBI, according to NPR, which also reported that Slaby passed a fitness-for-duty exam in 2010, including proving how he could shoot while wearing either of his two state-of-the-art prosthetics.

Slaby's suit claimed that "the FBI instructors at the academy in Quantico responded to his presence with incredible hostility and abject disrespect." As NPR reported:

According to the lawsuit, Slaby's classmates overheard their trainers snickering in the hallway: "What are they going to send us next? Guys in wheelchairs?" They'd never had a guy like Slaby try to be an agent, and they seemed determined to prove he couldn't cut it.

Six weeks into a 21-week course, the native of Oak Creek, Wis., says that he was told that he couldn't cut it and was out. Slaby sued and on Aug. 7 won a landmark discrimination lawsuit against the FBI. Not only will the 30-year-old get his job back, but a jury awarded him $75,000 in damages. He will be the first FBI agent with a prosthetic limb. And an FBI official who allegedly tried to pressure a witness involved in the case is under investigation and has been reassigned.

Slaby's lawyers John Griffin and Kathy Butler had successfully pursued another FBI discrimination case on behalf of a man with diabetes whom the FBI had refused to hire, according to Diabetes Forecast.

Working in Slaby's favor was testimony from FBI personnel, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. An FBI firearms instructor at Quantico, Nathan Williams, had to admit that he was a "top-tier student," even if the instructors decided that his gun handling would not have reached required levels of safety.

For example, Williams said Slaby could not properly pick up a gun from the ground or transfer it from his dominant right hand to his prosthetic left hand even after Slaby had the device modified and improved later in 2011. Williams called it "an unteachable safety concern."

"We had concerns about his ability to perform," Williams said.

However, Griffin and Butler showed that the documentation about these concerns started the day Slaby arrived, before anyone would have had a chance to see his performance. And another trainer said that agents weren't generally asked to demonstrate gun handling abilities with their non-dominant hand the way Slaby was.

But perhaps more devastating to the agency's case was that Teresa Carlson, head of the Milwaukee FBI office, reportedly got in trouble and was transferred over allegations that she tried to persuade an FBI agent to change his testimony in the case and "come down on the side of the government in this matter," according to the Journal Sentinel.

Some see the case as a big win for wounded veterans. Jeffrey Hynes, president of the Wisconsin Employment Lawyers Association, told the Milwaukee newspaper:

Because of the unique circumstances and scrutiny this case attracted, it is likely to become the catalyst and rallying cry for other veterans who are facing similar barriers to employment upon their return from military service.

More stories by Erik Sherman about workplace issues:
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Catholic High School Fires Gay Teacher After He Gets Married

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Robert Striblen

I can't buy a job in Northern Ohio. I put myself through the police academy in 2005. Was told specifically by several city, state, and even local government that I am was not suitable for police work because of the nature of my disability. They only say that because during the process of their hiring systems I told them I was a disabled combat veteran of 3 war zones. That I had PTSD and take medication. I passed every phase of training, I was the Top Gun weapons awardee and couldn't even get hired as an unarmed security guard at the mall. I spent well over $40,000 to travel to interviews, job fairs, and even internships and was told no by over 20 departments or agencies. I have 2 degrees now and still no prospects for employment. This is clearly an extreme case of discrimination and no end is in sight. What do I do to get justice for serving my country?

February 13 2015 at 12:27 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Funny, I was not even interviewed for several position at the local AFB because they had some hack retiree they wanted to hire instead of a qualified civilian. I'm in year four of my VA claim process, God forbid they help you in any way, shape or form. Expecting the government to do the right thing is just foolish. What really makes me laugh is the idiots who honestly think health care will improve with the government running it.

The FBI has always been a pretty boys social club, the idea of hiring a vet with a disability would really chap their butts. As they move more towards becoming the Obama secret police, they will want fewer and fewer people who serve or question their plans.

August 20 2013 at 4:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I ran into the same kind of discrimination at the USPS in San Antonio TX in about 2001. They demanded, no required my VA Disability Rating Decision which lists everything under the sun whether you were given a rating on it or not. Then they turned right around and used the exact wording from that document to make me ineligible for ANY posi8tion in the Postal Service. It is amazing how many things irritable bowel syndrome can disqualify you from. Can't even answer the telephone, sort mail, drive a truck, deliver mail. Even two college degrees didn't qualify me for anything. Yeah I could get preference points because of my military service and my service connected disabilities but they can't let that get in the way.

I actually fought the decision for several months and went up the chain of command all the way to the director for the Rio Grand Division. After he refused for over two months to even speak to me, only send me more denial letters, I finally can to a logical conclusion. If they wanted to NOT hire me that badly, it wouldn't take much for them to find an excuse to fire me during my probationary period.

Oh, and one more thing about the ordeal I went through. I was also applying for Civil Service positions on the military installations around the city. Though I retired from the Air Force after 22 years of service and experience (and two college degrees in the fields I was applying for), I quickly learned I was not qualified to even hold a position I had supervised tor the previous decade or so. Talk about getting your retirement off on the right foot.

Couple all that with the VA's yearlong turn around on my disability application it was a fun couple of years.

August 19 2013 at 10:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Government at work. And so many people want only MORE of it. If true insanity is continuing to try the same failed measures over and over again, then America is certifiably insane.
"We're the FBI, we're special, and we don't have to follow the law." You can find that at the Social Services Department, the DMV, Building & Safety, and even the library.

August 19 2013 at 7:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Please help our wounded warriors. Without them, we would have no freedom.

August 19 2013 at 1:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dennis M.

They are worried about him transferring the gun from his DOMINANT right hand to his PROSTHETIC left, I know people in the FBI right now that couldn't hit the broad side of a barn with a REAL left hand, this sounds like BULL to me.

August 19 2013 at 1:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

She tried to persuade an FBI agent to change his testimony. Transferred? Not fired or in jail for tampering. If you or I were involved we would be.

August 19 2013 at 11:51 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

OH I BET OBAMA ISN'T HAPPY. Now this paves the way for our Vets to get the right Compensation they need and desirve.
BOB !~!

August 19 2013 at 10:32 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Bobby's comment

You do realize that this Administration has been fighting FOR vets, since Day 1, and that it is those in Congress, on the Right, who have repeatedly stymied pro-veterans legislation, and even attacked one of their own, SOD Chuck Hagel, a highly decorated veteran and war hero who has fought for veterans since the Reagan administration, resigning over attempts to cut funding for the "greedy" VA?

August 19 2013 at 11:32 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to dgoffnspector's comment

I'm a Vet, and I'm calling BS.

August 19 2013 at 7:34 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

Oh Bobby, poor misguided soul that you are, the Obama Administration has been tirelessly fighting for Vets from the beginning. But your conservation nutcases in Congress are the ones who have blocked the legislation repeatedly. Try Googling or reading before making another Obama bashing comment. It only serves to make you look like a fool.

August 19 2013 at 2:05 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sydneycmotley's comment

Good luck finding a Veteran or even an intelligent active duty military person to agree with that one. Obama has been trying to undermine the military since he was inaugurated. He played cards in a marathon match while Seal Team 6 put their lives on the line and then played golf while the people doing his bidding in Benghazi were attacked and killed.

August 19 2013 at 10:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down

so happy this guy won against the ahos at the fbi who think they are gods.but really are shtheads

August 19 2013 at 7:32 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to joeypad's comment

Just born? Otherwise you'd be aware of a famous FBI shootout two decades ago, where the one agent in a position to save the others broke his glasses, and could not hit the targets who had killed and maimed other agents. His unsafe firearm handling skills put other agents, and the public at risk.

August 19 2013 at 9:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to sam54ct's comment

What "famous FBI shootout two decades ago" are you referring to? Please provde a link to the case.


August 19 2013 at 10:06 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

Sorry sam. Pretty sure I'd usually be with you, but there is a little something wrong with every individual, and blaming that shootout on one who could't stop it due to broken eyeglasses once it had begun is off base. There were any number of ways it could have been avoided or turned out far less tragic, and to select that one is (pardon me) myopic.

August 19 2013 at 7:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

I'd be proud and confident of his abilities by his military training alone. He'd have the smarts to adapt and think outside the box to save others as well as himself. Hope more vets get this opportunity.

August 19 2013 at 7:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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