432 F.3d 1321 (11th Cir. 2005), 05-10957, Ellis v. England

Docket Nº:05-10957
Citation:432 F.3d 1321
Party Name:David W. ELLIS, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Gordon R. ENGLAND, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:December 16, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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432 F.3d 1321 (11th Cir. 2005)

David W. ELLIS, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant,


Gordon R. ENGLAND, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 05-10957

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

Dec. 16, 2005.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, D. C. Docket No. 02-00131-CV-3-LAC

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James E. Goodman, Johnson & Ward, Atlanta, GA, for Ellis.

E. Bryan Wilson, Tallahassee, FL, Pamela A. Moine, Pensacola, FL, for England.

Before TJOFLAT, DUBINA and HULL, Circuit Judges.


David W. Ellis, Jr. appeals the district court's decision granting summary judgment to the Secretary of the Navy ("Navy"), his employer, whom he alleged discriminated against him on the basis of his physical disability, paralysis in one leg, in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a). In particular, he alleged that the Navy unlawfully revealed his disability to prospective employers in the Priority Placement Program (PPP)1, which had an adverse impact on him. He further alleged that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") found such discrimination and ordered the Navy to consider his compensatory damages claims, but because the Navy refused to award him compensatory damages, he brought this action, seeking a jury trial pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c).

On appeal, Ellis contends that, in light of the EEOC order finding discrimination by the Navy, the district court erred in conducting a de novo review on the issue of liability. He submits that the only issue before the district court was one of damages. Ellis further contends that, assuming the court properly conducted a de novo review on the question of liability, it erred in granting the Navy summary judgment because he presented evidence establishing a prima facie case of discrimination.


We review a district court's legal conclusions de novo . Cotton v. Mass, Mut. Life Ins. Co., 402 F.3d 1267, 1277 (11th Cir. 2005). In bringing suit under the Rehabilitation Act, a federal employee must first raise his disability discrimination

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claim administratively through an internal complaints process within the employing agency. See 29 C.F.R. § 1614.106; see also Moore v. Devine, 780 F.2d 1559, 1562 (11th Cir. 1986). If dissatisfied with the agency's resolution, the employee may bring a claim to the EEOC, which will issue its own recommendation. See 29 C.F.R. § 1614.109; see also Moore, 780 F.2d at 1562. The agency then reviews the EEOC recommendation and issues another decision. See 29 C.F.R. § 1614.110. If this decision is not appealed to the EEOC, it concludes the administrative process. See id.

On conclusion of the administrative process, a federal employee who prevails may sue in a federal district court to enforce an administrative decision with which an agency has failed to comply. See Moore, 780 F.2d at 1563; see also 29 C.F.R. § 1614.503(g). Alternatively, a federal employee unhappy with the administrative decision may bring a claim in the federal district court and obtain the same de novo review that a private sector employee receives in a Title VII action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-16(c). See Chandler v. Roudebush, 425 U.S. 840, 863, 96 S.Ct. 1949, 1960-61, 48 L.Ed. 2d 416 (1976).

In Moore, we addressed the former situation and held that, where an employee seeks enforcement of a favorable EEOC ruling, we do not review the merits of the employee's claims de novo unless the relief the EEOC ordered is beyond its authority. See Moore, 780 F.2d at 1563-64. In contrast, in DeReyna, an unpublished opinion involving the same EEOC order at issue in this case, we held that de novo review by the district court was appropriate because the plaintiffs in that case did not seek enforcement of the order, but rather "sought relief greater than that afforded in the EEOC's order . . ." DeReyna v. England, No. 03-15069, slip op. at 4 (11th Cir. Apr. 30, 2004).2 In particular, we noted that the EEOC only ordered the defendant to consider plaintiffs' compensatory damages claims, and did not order the defendant to award plaintiffs compensatory damages. Id. at 2-3. Thus, we rejected plaintiffs' suggestion that "the only work left in this case is to quantify damages." Id. at 2. Nonetheless, we have not addressed or...

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