A Hill Air Force Base worker has filed a federal court complaint accusing the Air Force of failing to provide work conditions to accommodate a mental impairment he suffered as a result of service in the Vietnam War.
Jacob Vandemyle Jr. of Clearfield filed the complaint Wednesday in U.S. District Court under Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act, claiming the Air Force discriminated against him by refusing to classify him as a handicapped person under Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations.Vandemyle, a Marine Corps combat veteran who served more than a year of active duty in Vietnam, is employed at the base as a sheet metal worker.
The complaint contends Vandemyle suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and that the sounds made by a rivet gun used in his workplace, similar to those made by an M-60 machine gun, exacerbate his condition.
The Air Force had denied Vandemyle's claims in a final decision on Aug. 17, 1988. But the EEOC, after reviewing medical recommendations and other evidence, determined on Dec. 19, 1988, that Vandemyle could be classified as handicapped.
Some of the evidence, the EEOC decision said, "suggests that appellant's present job situation is stressful and getting worse."
The commission said all of the medical evaluations it considered either suggested or recommended that Vandemyle be granted a job transfer.
The EEOC also noted that Vandemyle's grievance arose out of an undocumented incident in which a supervisor reportedly told him that he was being fired.
"It appears that appellant had been warned concerning his low productivity and that he believed that the alleged comment was intended to incite fear in him concerning his job security," the commission said.
Having found Vandemyle to be a handicapped employee under its regulations, the EEOC also determined he was a "qualified handicapped" worker, or one who, without reasonable accommodation, could perform the essential functions of his job without endangering his and his co-workers' health and safety.
Such a finding shifts the burden to the Air Force to show that it cannot reasonably accommodate Vandemyle's mental handicap without creating an undue hardship on its own operations.
Vandemyle contends that he is unable to perform the requirements of his position without an accommodation.
"He asserts that the constant noise from the rivet gun in his work area has created a problem for him in that it causes flashbacks of combat scenes which he believes could trigger a violent streak within him," the commission said.
"Appellant contends that if he is not reassigned or relocated from his position, his mental state (agitated by the constant repetitious sounds of the rivet gun) could cause him to lose control, thereby jeopardizing the safety of persons around him."