An Atlanta Social Security judge, once accused of secretly moving a hearing office close to his home, is accused of wrongdoing again.
This time, multiple disabled employees claim Judge Ollie Garmon discriminated against them, accusing him of not believing they were disabled or providing reasonable accommodations.
Deborah Newsom is one of those former employees. She’s a former Social Security regional attorney and worked for Garmon.
A few years ago, the 16-year veteran employee underwent two hip surgeries to address injuries caused by two car accidents. She walked with a cane for years.
Newsom provided numerous letters from her doctor to Garmon, and others in the agency, explaining her serious condition. Newsom said Garmon didn’t believe she was hurt.
”How do you justify yelling at someone about going to a doctor’s appointment? There is no justification for that,” said Newsom.
In 2013, Newsom filed a disability discrimination complaint against the agency, claiming “Judge Garmon was harassing her regarding medical appointments.”
“I had expressed my concerns with Judge Garmon about the fact that I was in a hostile work environment. But, how do you expect the person who’s causing the hostile work environment to help you? So, you’re helpless,” Newsom said.
Even Judge Garmon’s former secretary once wrote in a court affidavit, “I have been requesting to be transferred since about six months after I arrived. I want to get out of this office because there is always some kind of drama going on.”
Adrianne Bloodworth worked for Social Security for 18 years as a receptionist. In 2001, a doctor diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder after someone murdered her husband. She says her mental illness got worse in 2008 after, according to a formal complaint, a fellow Social Security employee sexually harassed her.
She claims the agency didn’t believe her and made it difficult for her to take time off to see a doctor to treat her PTSD. Social Security fired her in 2014.
”When I put in for reasonable accommodations, they removed me from my duties.” said Bloodworth. She blames Garmon for the termination. “Yes, emphatically. He directed it. I was told that he directed it.”
By phone, Garmon told the 11Alive Investigators he remembers Bloodworth and Newsom, but he declined to be further interviewed for this story.
In an email, an agency spokesperson wrote, “Social Security does not tolerate discrimination of any kind. Beyond that, we.do not comment on matters in litigation.”
The 11Alive Investigators uncovered the agency has a long history of discriminating against its own disabled employees.
”You can’t move in this field without stepping on irony. It’s everywhere,” said Dan Goldstein, a disability rights attorney.
Goldstein sued Social Security on behalf of 699 disabled Social Security workers who were passed up for job promotions in all 50 states. A judge settled the case for nearly $10 million dollars in 2014.
“It was clear that people with disabilities who worked at Social Security were suffering from discrimination,” said Goldstein.
Bloodworth was part of that settlement.
Social Security declined to discuss the lawsuit’s claims, but it said it created a Center for Accommodations and Disability Services, which will assist employees with disabilities.
The agency’s spokesperson also said the agency has expanded training to employees with disabilities.
In August, multiple agency employees, including fellow judges, accused Garmon of secretly moving an Atlanta disability hearing office 25 miles away. If it’s moved, it the office will be close to Garmon’s Alpharetta home.
Know Your Rights
It is against the law for any employer to discriminate against employees due to race, sex or disability. Here’s how to report it: https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/pdf/pdfstart.htm
What is employment disability discrimination and how to spot it: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm
A History of Complaints