Disabled veteran Tracy Kendall’s odyssey in pursuit of an engineering technician job at Bay Pines VA Medical Center near St. Petersburg has taken him from mopping floors to the home of the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs—but it still hasn’t landed him the job.
Kendall’s Army career ended in 1988 when he suffered a service-related injury. Two knee replacements later, he has received extensive training in drafting, architecture and building design, all paid for by the VA. He thought his education and experience would qualify him for the Bay Pines engineering technician job opening he spotted last year.
Bay Pines officials agreed he was qualified, but gave the job instead to a woman whose husband and son worked in the department doing the hiring.
Bay Pines is the nation’s fifth-largest veterans hospital.
At the suggestion of another Bay Pines employee, Kendall applied for a housekeeping position to get his foot in the door. He claims he explained that his knees prevented him from mopping floors or climbing ladders—and that Bay Pines personnel told him he wouldn’t be asked to perform those tasks.
A few days after starting the position, he was told to mop the floor. After explaining that he couldn’t, he went home for the day. Bay Pines said he went AWOL.
That’s when he complained to the EEOC, alleging that Bay Pines violated the ADA by failing to accommodate his disability. Three days later, Bay Pines fired him.
Undaunted, Kendall went to the top. He found the home address of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Gen. Eric Shinseki, with whom Kendall had served in the Army. Kendall says he traveled to Washington, D.C., rang Shinseki’s doorbell and explained his situation. He says Shinseki promised to look into the matter.