Braille Monitor                                                                 February 1985

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Marsha Crickmore Wins Dispute with IRS: Report from Indiana

Richard Culley, President of the National Federation of the Blind of Indiana, reports that Marsha Crickmore has a job with the Internal Revenue Service of the United States. It is not uncommon for blind people to work for IRS. But the circumstances in Marsha's case are somewhat unique. The job is the result of a complaint filed by Dick Culley on Marsha's behalf. The complaint challenged an IRS practice of refusing to hire blind people on the same terms as the sighted for similar work.

IRS boasts that blind people can get jobs as Taxpayer Service Representatives (TSR's), answering tax questions from the public mainly over the telephone. Sometimes a blind employee will even oe allowed to handle face to face public inquiries, over the counter. But this is the exception to the rule. Mostly, blind people will be found in the phone rooms of IRS Service Centers.

The employment of blind people for telephone jobs at IRS started several years ago as a special initiative in cooperation with Arkansas Enterprises for the Blind (AEB). AEB would give blind people training for entry-level work in the taxpayer information service of IRS. Then there would be jobs for the AEB trainees at IRS offices throughout the country.

Many blind people jumped at the chance to work in this special program. It was almost a ready-made employment opportunity. They did not particularly like the idea of getting trained at AEB. But, if that was the price to be paid for a job with IRS, so be it. Besides, AEB would be paid by the state rehabilitation agencies anyway. The only cost to the blind individual might be the time involved in receiving the special training at AEB. Then, too, the blind individual would have to be willing to endure the often demeaning training philosophy and practices of AEB. But the time would be relatively short. Most would be willing to pay this price for a job with IRS.

Not everyone would agree to take the special training route through AEB just for a job at IRS. Marsha Crickmore is one who would not agree. In June, 1983, she took the regular, competitive examination for entry-level employment as a Taxpayer Service Representative. She passed with a score of 94. This qualified her for a position of number three on the certified register for employment. But she was passed over three times without receiving an interview for the position.

Then an informal equal opportunity complaint was filed in December, 1983. And (all of a sudden) IRS decided to give Marsha an interview. That was easy enough. But a score of six is necessary to survive the interview. Marsha got four. Who knows why? As Dick Culley says, no one at IRS could even tell him what criteria were used to score the interview.

So in March, 1984, a formal equal employment opportunity complaint was filed with IRS. The complaint charged that Marsha was discriminated against in the selection of applicants for the interviewing process and in the interviewing process itself. Dick Culley reports that, "After the investigation was concluded, we had a settlement hearing that took place Monday, June 4, 1984, in Indianapolis. The Internal Revenue Service's director agreed to give Marsha Crickmore a job. She is to start training in the first available class. She will also have a reader furnished by the Internal Revenue Service for the duration of the training period, and she will be trained with her sighted peers." He also reports that in another case involving Adam Bishop the IRS Director did not agree to offer either training or an opportunity for employment. That case is on appeal, and Dick Culley anticipates achieving a similar result.

Congratulations to Dick Culley, our Indiana affiliate, and Marsha Crickmore for a job well done. Marsha is now actually working at IRS during the 1985 tax season. If you are in Indianapolis or the surrounding area this spring and have questions about your income tax (or "Where's my refund?"), who knows, you may get Marsha on the phone. She will be glad to help you. That's what belonging to the National Federation of the Blind is all about.