DiCocco v. Garland, No. 20-1342 (4th Cir. 2021)Annotate this Case
In 2014, Dr. DiCocco, then 67, accepted a job as a Bureau of Prisons (BOP) psychiatrist. As a condition of her hiring, DiCocco, like all new BOP employees, had to pass the Physical Abilities Test, which requires dragging a 75-pound dummy at least 694 feet for three minutes, climbing a ladder to retrieve an object within seven seconds, completing an obstacle course in 58 seconds, running a quarter-mile and handcuffing someone within two minutes and 35 seconds, and climbing three flights of stairs in 45 seconds while wearing a 20-pound weight belt. DiCocco took the test and failed. Under BOP policy, she could retake the test within 24 hours, but she declined. She was informed that unless she resigned, her BOP employment would be terminated. She resigned. After exhausting her administrative remedies, DiCocco filed suit, alleging disparate-impact theories of sex discrimination under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. 2000e, and age discrimination, 29 U.S.C. 621–634.
The Fourth Circuit reversed, in part, the dismissal of the complaint. In finding that DiCocco’s resignation did not constitute an “adverse employment action.” the district court inappropriately intertwined its standing analysis with the merits. DiCocco alleged that she suffered financial and job-related injuries that are fairly traceable to the government’s action and likely to be redressed by a favorable ruling. The age discrimination claim was properly dismissed because the ADEA provision applicable to federal-sector employees does not provide a disparate-impact cause of action.