Friday, February 3, 2023

Department of State Reaches Settlement Resolving Longstanding Claims of Disability Discrimination Relating to Its Worldwide Availability Requirement for Career Department of State Foreign Service Applicants

The Department of State is pleased to announce it has reached an agreement to settle Meyer, et al. v. U.S. Department of State, a longstanding class action pending at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) over successive administrations that challenges the Department’s Worldwide Availability requirement for career Foreign Service applicants.  This is an important step forward in the Department’s efforts to create a workforce that reflects the full diversity of the American people and ensure we have the best team representing the United States abroad.  Our greatest accomplishments are achieved when diverse, dynamic perspectives power our diplomatic efforts.

The settlement resolves the claims of over 230 individuals whose employment with the Department was either delayed or denied as a result of their inability to obtain a “Class 1” medical clearance, also referred to as a “Worldwide Available” medical clearance.  The terms of the settlement agreement have received preliminary approval by the EEOC and have been briefed to the American Foreign Service Association.  Class members will now have an opportunity to comment.  A final hearing to approve the settlement agreement is scheduled for March 15, 2023. The terms of the settlement agreement will become effective shortly thereafter, depending on whether any appeals of the final approval order are available and filed.  The complete settlement agreement is posted on the Department’s website.

If the settlement agreement receives final approval, the Department will extend conditional offers of employment to many of the class members (excluding, for example, those who have already been hired or who are no longer eligible for hire by the Department for non-medical reasons).  The Department has also agreed to adopt a revised minimum medical qualification standard for Department career Foreign Service applicants that would replace our current requirement for a Class 1 medical clearance; this would be monitored by the EEOC for a period of five years.  Finally, the Department will pay $37.5 million to settle the case.

For generalists and specialists, except medical specialists[1], applicants will need to be medically cleared to serve at all designated Regional Medical Evacuation Centers – currently Bangkok, London, Pretoria, and Singapore.  The revised minimum medical qualification agreed to as part of the settlement will be used only to determine whether an applicant is medically qualified for hire and will not be used to define or limit the universe of posts at which the applicant can serve. The settlement agreement makes no other changes to existing qualification standards for Department Foreign Service applicants.  Additionally, the settlement agreement makes no changes to the Department’s directed assignment policy for entry level employees.

It is the intent of the Department to maintain the revised minimum medical qualification standard so long as it remains in compliance with the law and allows the Department to meet the needs of the Foreign Service.  During the five-year monitoring period, the Department will periodically assess the impact of the revised policy on the Department’s ability to meet the needs of the Foreign Service.  The settlement agreement includes a mechanism to allow for modifications of the revised policy if the Department determines that the revised policy is not meeting the needs of the Foreign Service.

The terms of the settlement announced today are commensurate with the Department’s commitment to inclusive workforce policies.  The Department continues to examine areas in which policies can be designed or updated to reflect the Secretary’s modernization agenda, which includes attracting and retaining top talent that reflects our nation’s diversity.

For further information, please contact Dana Murray at [email protected].

Official news published at https://www.state.gov/department-of-state-reaches-settlement-resolving-longstanding-claims-of-disability-discrimination-relating-to-its-worldwide-availability-requirement-for-career-department-of-state-foreign-service-appl/

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