does not have the authority to deviate. Miani Depo. at 61. As the guidelines do not allow for a individualized assessment of the nature and effect of the disability or possible accommodations, the Court finds that the first step of the medical screening process does little to ensure compliance with the Rehabilitation Act.
Defendant notes, however, that the second step of the screening process is a more individualized review by professionals with particular areas of expertise.
Miani Depo at 50. These medical experts determine whether the application of the guidelines has led to a medically appropriate result. Bono Depo. at 47-48. As noted above, in this case the individual review by the Peace Corps' mental health expert was wholly inadequate to meet the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act. However, if in an individualized inquiry, the Peace Corps were to gather all relevant information regarding the applicant's work and medical history and determine what accommodations are necessary to enable the applicant to be placed as a Peace Corps volunteer it may meet the requirements of the Rehabilitation Act. See Mantolete, 767 F.2d at 1422-1423. The second step in the screening process, therefore, does provide the potential for the type individualized assessment required by the Rehabilitation Act; however, as this case demonstrates the process does not require such a particularized individual assessment.
The third step in the medical screening process is an appeals process that allows the applicant to challenge a deferral or disqualification on the basis of disability. Alden Decl. P 2, Ex. A. The appeal process shifts the burden to the applicant to present relevant information and request accommodations. The Rehabilitation Act, however, requires the Peace Corps to gather the evidence relevant to the applicant's impairment and necessary accommodations. See Mantolete, 767 F.2d at 1422-1424. Permitting an applicant to appeal an adverse decision, therefore, does not help bring the Peace Corps' medical screening process into compliance with the Rehabilitation Act.
The Court cannot hold as a matter of law, that the Peace Corps medical screening process violates the Rehabilitation Act whenever it evaluates an applicant with dysthymia. The second step of the process provides the potential for the gathering of information and individual review necessary for compliance with the Act. The Court is troubled by the fact that the second step of the Peace Corps' screening process is not mandatory. The inadequacies of the first and third steps would likely mandate a finding that the Peace Corps does not comply with the Rehabilitation Act whenever it excludes an individual on the basis of an impairment without the second-step review. To ensure compliance with the Rehabilitation Act the Peace Corps must include in its medical screening process the gathering of all relevant information regarding the plaintiff's history and an individualized review of the disability and possible accommodations; however, that does not mean that the use of screening guidelines as a threshold sorting device and the existence of an appeals process as an extra precaution violate the Rehabilitation Act. Consequently the Court will not enjoin the Peace Corps from using of the dysthymia screening guidelines as part of its medical eligibility review.
Accordingly and in a manner consistent with this opinion, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part, and defendant's motion for summary judgment is granted in part and denied in part.
The Court orders the Peace Corps to reevaluate its decision to medically-defer plaintiff's application. The reevaluation shall include an individualized examination of whether plaintiff is qualified, in spite of her impairment, to serve as an overseas Peace Corps volunteer. That individualized examination shall be based on all the relevant evidence of plaintiff's medical and work history. If the Peace Corps determines that placing plaintiff overseas creates a reasonable probability of substantial harm, or that on some other basis, plaintiff is not otherwise qualified to be a Peace Corps volunteer, the Peace Corps shall determine what accommodations are necessary to make placement of plaintiff safe. If the Peace Corps determines that it is unable to accommodate plaintiff, the Peace Corps will bear the burden of demonstrating why accommodation is impossible.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
THELTON E. HENDERSON, CHIEF JUDGE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT