EEOC Awards $60K For USNATO Brussels’ Failure to “Reasonably Accommodate” @StateDept Employee

Posted: 2:36 am ET


Via 1/FY18:

Commission Increased Award of Damages to $60,000. The Commission previously affirmed the Agency’s finding that it failed to reasonably accommodate Complainant. Following an investigation of Complainant’s claim for damages, the Agency awarded Complainant $10,500 in non-pecuniary damages. On appeal, the Commission affirmed the Agency’s decision not to award pecuniary damages, finding insufficient documentary proof to support such an award. The Commission, however, increased the award of non-pecuniary damages to $60,000. The Agency conceded that Complainant established a nexus between the harm he sustained and the discrimination. The record evidence confirmed that over a three-year period, Complainant experienced an exacerbation of his pre-existing conditions caused by stress created by the Agency’s discriminatory actions. Complainant stated that he experienced anxiety, irritability, insomnia and loss of consortium, and indicated that he did not go out socially. He also noted that he experienced headaches, and night sweats, and was forced to increase his medication when the Agency refused to accommodate him. The evidence supported Complainant’s assertion that his condition had stabilized prior to the discrimination, and the Agency was liable for the worsening of Complainant’s condition. Irvin W. v. Dep’t of State, EEOC Appeal No. 0120141773 (Oct. 28, 2016).

Here is a quick summary of the case:

At the time of events giving rise to this complaint, Complainant worked as an Information Management Specialist at the Agency’s U.S. Mission to NATO in Brussels, Belgium.  On September 11, 2009, Complainant filed an EEO complaint alleging that the Agency discriminated against him on the basis of disability (Sjogrens Syndrome, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Anxiety) when the Agency failed to provide him with a reasonable accommodation of his disability. After an investigation, Complainant requested the Agency issued a final decision.  In its decision, the Agency found Complainant established he was subjected to discrimination when he was denied an accommodation.  As relief, the Agency ordered that Complainant be provided with a reasonable accommodation. On July 14, 2011, Complainant appealed the decision, and we affirmed the Agency’s finding on liability, and remanded the matter to the Agency so that it could conduct a supplementary investigation into Complainant’s entitlement to compensatory damages.  After conducting an investigation, the Agency issued its decision on March 12, 2014 awarding Complainant $10,500.00 in non-pecuniary damages. Specifically, the Agency found that Complainant’s pre-existing condition was largely the cause of Complainant’s physical and emotional distress during this time, and that the amount awarded was meant to compensate Complainant for the worsening of that condition.  The Agency disagreed with Complainant’s claim that his condition had stabilized by the time he arrived in Brussels, as evidence revealed he was still on a large dosage of steroids in July 2008, weeks before he began working.  Although Complainant alleged that he suffered from a loss of bone density (Osteopenia) as a result of his long term steroid use, the Agency determined that there was insufficient evidence that this was as a result of the discrimination.  Furthermore, although Complainant suffered emotional distress related to the discrimination, such distress occurred prior to his request for reasonable accommodation, which the Agency could not be held liable for.  In sum, the Agency concluded that Complainant’s condition was inherently unpredictable, and accordingly, his symptoms were unrelated to the discrimination itself.  Accordingly, the Agency concluded that $10,500.00 was an appropriate amount to compensate Complainant for the emotional distress he suffered.  The Agency declined to award any pecuniary damages in response to Complainant’s request.  This appeal followed.
Based upon the evidence provided by Complainant, we find the Agency’s award of $10,500.00 to be inadequate to remedy the harm caused by the Agency.  The Commission notes that record evidence confirmed that over a three year period, Complainant experienced an exacerbation of his pre-existing conditions for which he sought treatment caused by the stress created by the Agency’s discriminatory actions.  Complainant asserts that he suffered from anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and loss of consortium.  He maintains he did not go out socially, and suffered from headaches, night sweats and loss of bone density.  Most notably, he states he had tapered down his steroid dosage prior to reporting to Brussels, but was forced to increase the medication when the Agency refused to provide him with an accommodation of his disability.  We find the evidence supports Complainant’s position that his condition had stabilized and thus, the Agency is liable for the worsening of his condition. The Commission finds that an award of $60,000.00 is reasonable under the circumstances. See Complainant v. Dep’t of Transp., EEOC Appeal No. 0720140022 (Sept. 16, 2015) (Complainant awarded $60,000.00 where Agency’s failure to accommodate resulted in depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and exacerbation of existing symptoms); Complainant v. Soc. Sec. Admin., EEOC Appeal No. 0720130013 (Aug. 14, 2014) (Complainant awarded $60,000.00 where Agency’s failure to accommodate resulted in exacerbation of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, stress, and elevated blood pressure); Henery v. Dep’t of the Navy, EEOC Appeal No. 07A50034 (Sept. 22, 2005) ($65,000.00 awarded where Complainant suffered from frustration, negativity, and loss of sleep for a four-year period, as well as physical pain associated with the resulting excessive walking. The discrimination caused significant increase in Complainant’s need for medical treatment, as well as an increase in physical and emotional harm). The Commission finds that this amount takes into account the severity of the harm suffered and his pre-existing condition, and is also consistent with prior Commission precedent. Finally, the Commission finds this award is not “monstrously excessive” standing alone, is not the product of passion or prejudice, and is consistent with the amount awarded in similar cases.  See Jackson v. U.S. Postal Serv., EEOC Appeal No. 01972555 (Apr. 15, 1999) (citing Cygnar v. City of Chicago, 865 F. 2d 827, 848 (7th Cir. 1989)).



July 20 SFRC Hearing: Kay Bailey Hutchison to be U.S. Ambassador to NATO

Posted: 1:22 am ET
Updated: 11:48 am PT
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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) is holding a confirmation hearing on the nomination of former Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to be the next U.S. Ambassador to NATO.

Date: Thursday, July 20, 2017
Time: 09:30 AM
Location: SD-419
Presiding: Senator Corker

A live video of the hearing and the prepared testimony will be posted here when available.










Per Section 712 of the Department of State Authorities Act, Fiscal Year 2017, the State Department is required to post the Certificates of Competency online within seven days of transmittal to the Senate.  As of this writing, there is no report available online for Senator Hutchison.



Trump Nominates Former TX Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison to be Ambassador to NATO

Posted: 3:55 am ET
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Secretary Tillerson Travels to Germany For G-20, Also @StateDept Counselor Steps Down

Posted: 12:50 am  ET
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s first official trip as SecState is to Bonn, Germany from February 15-17 to participate in the G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.

According to a SAO, Secretary Tillerson will have “a couple of key themes from his meetings will be to reassure everyone of our continued commitment to transatlantic relations and to our commitments – transatlantic commitments in NATO and otherwise, and to urge solidarity with Europeans on Ukraine and on Russia, on the Minsk, and to push Russia to honor its commitments, both in Ukraine and elsewhere.”

He will also have a bilateral meeting with the Saudi foreign minister and a second meeting with a gathering of six of the key players (U.S., UK, the Emiratis, the Saudis, the UN, and the Omanis) to discuss Yemen.

More here.

In related news, career ambassador Kristie Kenney, one of the three remaining top senior officials at the State Department was reportedly let go this week.  Ambassador Kenney was appointed Counselor to the Secretary of State in February 2016 (see Secretary Kerry Appoints Kristie Kenney as State Department Counselor).  We do not as yet know if this is a resignation, or a retirement from the Foreign Service.  With her departure, only one Senate-confirmed official remains at the top ranks of the State Department (Tom Shannon (P)). Career diplomat Bruce Wharton who previously served as Ambassador to Zimbabwe also remains as Acting Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (R).

Seven of the nine senior State Department positions are now vacant. It looks like all under secretary positions, with the exception of “P” and “R” are vacant with no officials designated in an acting capacity. For the Under Secretary for Management, we understand that one John W. Hutchison, a member of the Trump Transition is “Acting M” for 120 days.


How many @StateDept people remain unaccounted for after the #BrusselsAttacks? (Update #5)

Posted: 3:23 am EDT
Update #1: 7:02 pm EDT
Update #2: March 25, 12:27 am EDT
Update #3: 12:25 pm EDT
Update #4: 3:51 pm EDT
Update #5: 5:57 pm EDT
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Updated: 7:02 pm EDT: We understand that there are two individuals with the State Department who are unaccounted for in Brussels at this time. We will update when we learn more.

Updated: March 25, 12:27 am EDT: One of the two State Department individuals still missing in Brussels is a family member and part of mission under Chief of Mission authority. The second one is reportedly USG but is not part of the tri-mission (we don’t know at this time if employee or family member). 

Update #3: 12:25 am EDT: One is a family member and reportedly part of the USNATO mission; the second one who is USG but is not part of the tri-mission is also a family member.  

Update #4: 3:51 pm EDT:  The two unaccounted for are now the first two confirmed USG fatalities in Brussels. According to the AP  the State Department has confirmed that the families of two Americans had been informed of their deaths in the attacks Tuesday. Spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said the names were being withheld out of privacy considerations. 

Update #5: 5:57 pm EDT: According to ABCNews, the two Americans killed in Brussels this week have been confirmed as the spouses of U.S. personnel. “A U.S. official confirmed to ABC News that the two Americans were living in Europe at the time of the attacks. Their names have not been released and the families have asked for privacy.”

Via | Mark C. Toner, Deputy Spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, March 23, 2016:

“So in terms of State Department or U.S. Government personnel, that is still also ongoing. We still have not accounted for every official U.S. Government employee or their members – or family members on the ground in Belgium – or in Brussels, rather. Partly, that reflects the size of the mission or three missions. There’s a bilateral mission, there’s a mission to the EU, as well as a mission to NATO. And as I said, partly reflects the fact that there’s a number of injured in the hospital – in hospitals around the city, and we’re still trying to gain access and trying to determine the identity of those and the nationality, obviously, of those individuals.”

The Brussels Tri-Mission includes U.S. Embassy Brussels, the U.S. Mission to the European Union (USEU), and the U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (USNATO). Each mission has its own ambassador and DCM. Posts often have an administrative “warden” system for the official U.S. citizen community.  Shortly after the attacks, the mission’s or tri-mission’s phone tree/notifications would have been activated. But we should also note that the Tri-Mission has one of the heaviest visitor workloads in the world due to the num­ber of U.S. agencies that conduct business in Brussels.



Around the Foreign Service — Remembrances and Commemorations, Memorial Day 2015

Posted: 5:28 pm  PDT
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US Embassy Belgium

U.S. Memorial Day commemorations in Belgium | Each year, the U.S. Embassy to the Kingdom of Belgium observes Memorial Day by participating in commemoration ceremonies to honor the more than 14,000 American soldiers buried in Belgium in World War One and World War Two cemeteries.

Photo by US Embassy Brussels/FB

Photo by US Embassy Brussels/FB

US Embassy Romania

US Embassy Bucharest, Romania |  Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Dean Thompson at the occasion of Memorial Day Ceremony. Bucharest, May 22, 2015 (Lucian Crusoveanu / Public Diplomacy Office)

Photo by US Embassy Romania/Flickr

Photo by US Embassy Romania/Flickr

US Mission NATO


US Embassy United Kingdom


USCG Strasbourg, France


US Consulate Halifax, Canada


US Embassy New Zealand


US Embassy Netherlands


Snapshot: Defense Spending in NATO Member States

— Domani Spero
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On September 2, President Obama arrived in Tallinn, Estonia. From September 4-5, he will be in Wales for the NATO Summit. There will be 60 world leaders, 70 foreign ministers, 70 defence ministers and 28 NATO member countries invited to the UK summit.

According to the CRS, the formal summit agenda is expected to focus on three main issues:

• Enhancing allied readiness and strengthening collective defense and military capabilities, including through increased troop rotations and military exercises in Central and Eastern Europe;

• Marking the conclusion of NATO’s decade-long mission in Afghanistan at the end of 2014 and launching a planned follow-on training mission; and

• Enhancing NATO’s support of partner countries outside the alliance, including through a new “Defense Capacity Building Initiative.”

Apparently, also a key discussion that must be had during the summit is the defense spending of member states.  Below via the CRS:

A key question underlying summit deliberations on collective defense will be whether the allies are willing to devote the resources necessary to meet their stated commitments. As such, a primary objective of NATO leaders and U.S. and UK officials, among others, is to secure allied pledges to reverse the ongoing downward trend in allied defense spending.

In 2013, total defense spending by NATO European allies as a percentage of GDP was about 1.6%; just four NATO allies (Estonia, Greece, the UK, and the United States) met the alliance’s goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense (see Appendix for more allied defense spending figures).  Since 2001, the U.S. share of total allied defense spending has grown from 63% to 72%.13 Many analysts and U.S. officials have long asserted that defense spending in many European countries is not only too low; it is also inefficient, with disproportionately high personnel costs coming at the expense of much-needed research, development, and procurement. In 2013, only four allies (France, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and the United States) met a NATO guideline to devote 20% of defense expenditures to the purchase of major equipment, considered a key indicator of the pace of military modernization.

via CRS

via CRS (click on image for larger view)

Follow the NATO Summit Wales 2014 via GOV.UK here.

* * *






Round-Up: Swearing-In the New American Ambassadors

— Domani Spero

US Mission to the United Nations
@VP Biden swears in Samantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. on August 5, 2013

@VP Biden swears in Samantha Power as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. on August 5, 2013

US Mission NATO
The new #US Ambassador to #NATO, Douglas Lute was sworn in by #SecKerry on Aug 15.

The new #US Ambassador to #NATO, Douglas Lute was sworn in by #SecKerry on Aug 15.

US Embassy United Kingdom

15 August 2013 – Ambassador Matthew Winthrop Barzun is sworn in by Secretary of State John Kerry at the State Department in Washington (State Dept. photo)

U.S. Embassy Republic of Congo
US Embbrazaville

Ambassador to the Republic of Congo Stephanie S. Sullivan was sworn-in in August at the State Department by Deputy Secretary Burns.

U.S. Embassy Ukraine
Deputy Secretary Bill Burns swears to office new U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt at the State Department on July 30, 2013 (State Department photo)

Deputy Secretary Bill Burns swears in new U.S. Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt at the State Department on July 30, 2013 (State Department photo)

U.S. Embassy Cote d’Ivoire
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a swearing-in ceremony for Terry McCulley as U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on October 18, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts a swearing-in ceremony for Terry McCulley as U.S. Ambassador to Cote d’Ivoire at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on October 18, 2013. [State Department photo/ Public Domain]


* * *

Today at the SFRC: Nuland, Lute, Baer

By Domani Spero


Today, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold confirmation hearings for the following State Department nominees:

Presiding: Senator Murphy

Date: Thursday, July 11, 2013

Time: 02:15 PM

Location: Senate Dirksen 419


  • The Honorable Victoria Nuland of Virginia, to be Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
  • Mr. Douglas Edward Lute of Indiana, to be United States Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • Mr. Daniel Brooks Baer of Colorado, to be U.S. Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in EuropeClick here to view the  scheduled live webcast and prepared testimonies.


A live webcast and the prepared testimonies of the nominees will be posted here when available.


Thursday Inbox: Is it appropriate to send a retired general to be ambassador to USNATO?

From our inbox, a question about the recent nomination to NATO:

I don’t know Doug Lute.  And I have no reason to doubt that he is a smart and very accomplished person, who has earned the President’s trust.  However, that’s not the issue.  What *is* an issue is the fact that Lute is a military man.  And I think there need to be some probing questions asked asked about the appropriateness of sending a retired general to be ambassador USNATO.

The U.S. Ambassador to NATO is actually a shorthand title — s/he is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council (NAC).  The NAC is NATO’s political decision-making body.

The United States has, of course, had veterans in the USUN job before, but never, to the best of my knowledge, a retired career military person.  Indeed, the whole point of the North Atlantic Council is that it is run by civilians.  That’s why it is the top and sovereign body in NATO.

Those responsible for this appointment either don’t know or care about the history of NATO and why the NAC exists.

Sending a career military man to [USUN] USNATO is similar to, although different in degree, naming a Secretary of Defense who is a retired general.  In the United States, we have civilian control of the military.  These kinds of appointments blur that distinction in a dangerous way.

By the way — lest anyone make the argument that, since Lute is retired, we really should just ignore his whole military career and view him as a civilian, that is a laughable argument on two fronts:

(1) The only thing that makes him a candidate for any senior government job is that very military experience; and

(2) The White House even calls him *General* Lute in their announcement of the nomination!  So much for the civilian stuff.

A final note:

There is actually a quasi-counterpart to the North Atlantic Council for military reps at NATO — the NATO Military Committee.

Can one assume that, when the current 3-star who is the U.S. rep on the Military Committee leaves, he will be replaced by some just-retired FSO?  Of course, the answer is no.

– * –

Below via | The Chief of Mission has the title of U.S. Permanent Representative on the Council of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with the rank and status of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. Prior to 1 July 1967 the Representative on the Council of NATO was the Chief of the U.S. Mission to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nad European Regional Organizations at Paris.


Since post was created, only five six of those appointed as ambassador to USNATO were career diplomats from the U.S. Foreign Service. One of those FSOs and the sole female appointee is Victoria Nuland, former State spokesperson and current nominee to be Assistant Secretary for the EUR Bureau. Update: One of our readers wrote to inform us that although Kurt Volker was a “non-career appointment” to the USNATO position he actually was a career FSO for a number of years. We understand that he was not in the Senior Foreign Service when appointed ambassador. Whether by mistake or oversight, both Volker and Nuland are listed by as non-career appointees.  Since Volker was in the FS and Nuland is currently in the FS (just promoted to FE-CM in 2012) we’re listing them both as FSOs in this blog post.

Only one previous appointee is a retired former military official – William Henry Draper Jr. who served during World War II as a major in the infantry, left and became a banker but stayed in the Army Reserves.  He later became a brigadier-general after World War II,  was promoted to major-general, and became the first under secretary of the Army from September 18, 1947 to February 28, 1949.

General Lute graduated from West Point in 1975 and left active duty in 2010.

Lieutenant General David R. Hogg is currently the United States Military Representative to the NATO Military Committee (USMILREP).

Updated to clarify details on Volker and Draper. Thanks to readers who helped!