Former Capitol Guide Sues for Reinstatement, Damages

Posted June 1, 2004 at 6:39pm

A former Capitol Guide Service employee has filed a federal lawsuit against the agency and its oversight board, asserting that superiors subjected him to years of retaliation after he filed an Equal Employment Opportunity complaint in the late 1990s.

On Friday, Kevin Barry of Springfield, Va., filed an amended complaint in U.S. District Court against both the Capitol Guide Service and the Capitol Guide Board, asserting that he faced discrimination and was wrongfully terminated from his position in July 2003.

Barry — who filed his initial complaint in February under the Congressional Accountability Act — is seeking monetary damages and reinstatement in the Guide Service, which conducts official tours of the Capitol.

“As the result of the Guide Service management’s discrimination and retaliation, Mr. Barry now had difficulty securing employment, as he is 57 years old, deaf, does not have many marketable skills, and must now report that he has been fired for cause on job applications,” court documents state.

According to court documents, Barry, who is “profoundly deaf,” asserts that he was treated “in a disparate manner” from his co-workers.

In his amended complaint, Barry — who joined the Guide Service in June 1994 — asserts that discrimination began in February 1996, when he applied for the position of “Chief Guide” but was not selected.

“Mr. Barry’s non-selection was due solely and proximately to Mr. Barry’s deafness and his need for sign language interpreter services,” court documents state. Another Guide Service employee, Ted Daniel, was promoted to the Chief Guide post.

Several months later, Barry was sanctioned for sexual harassment, which he asserts came in retaliation to a “promotion complaint” he filed. Barry challenged the harassment charge, which was removed from his record in 1997.

“Mr. Barry dutifully continued his employment with the Guide Service, receiving satisfactory reviews for approximately 6 years,” the amended complaint states. “During this six year period, however, it was apparent that Mr. Daniel bore a grudge against Mr. Barry.”

In his complaint, Barry asserts that he received smaller pay increases than other Guide Service employees at his level — he served as Deputy Chief Guide and later as Assistant Director for Administration. He also asserts that he was not informed of policy changes and tour information, and that he received more limited bereavement leave than other employees.

In addition, Barry states that he did not receive a full-time interpreter following the departure of interpreter Yvonne Moore in 1997 and was required to use the Congressional Special Services Office.

“One one occasion Mr. Daniel told Mr. Barry’s interpreter … Ms. Moore that, because of his hearing impairment, Mr. Barry caused the Guide Service to have to pay two people to perform one job,” court documents state.

Tom Stevens, the current Guide Service Director, fired Barry in July 2003 following an investigation into Barry’s alleged “inappropriate conduct” during conversations with an American Sign Language interpreter at the Congressional Special Services Office.

“The ostensible reason set forth in the memorandum as justification for Mr. Barry’s termination is ‘inappropriate conduct’ as evidenced by the purported ethnic and sexual content of the forgoing conversations with Ms. [Michelle] Montelongo,” court documents state.

Neither the U.S. Attorney’s Office nor the Senate Employment Counsel — which represents the Capitol Guide Service Board because its employees receive their salaries through the Senate payroll — has filed a response to Barry’s complaint. The government has up to 60 days to do so.

Senate Senior Counsel for Employment Toby Hyman did, however, file a motion Thursday seeking to seal portions of Barry’s complaint.

A telephone call to the Senate Employment Counsel was not returned, but Nicholas Woodfield, one of Barry’s attorneys, said his firm will not object to the motion.

“Under the Congressional Accountability Act any mediation or attempts to reconcile a case are confidential and so we are agreeing to the sealing of any references to it,” Woodfield said.

The CAA ended longstanding Congressional exemptions from 11 laws covering civil rights, fair employment and discrimination. Congressional employees are allowed to filed complaints in federal district court, after required counseling and mediation at the Office of Compliance, an independent legislative branch agency created by the CAA.