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5th Circuit Revives U.S. Education Dept. Worker's Bias Suit

A federal appeals court has revived the disability-discrimination lawsuit of an employee in the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights.

Robert Pinkerton was dismissed in 2002 as an equal-opportunity specialist in the Dallas regional office of the department's civil-rights branch for what court papers describe as "unacceptable performance." Pinkerton, who has physical disabilities, sued the Education Department under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 alleging discrimination and retaliation. A jury sided with the department in the case.

On appeal, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, ruled unanimously on May 27 in Pinkerton v. Spellings that the district court should have applied a less-stringent standard of "causation" in the case, and that the worker need only show that his disabilities were a motivating factor in his dismissal and not the sole reason.

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