By Deborah Hopkins, November 17, 2021

Numerous EEOC decisions were recently published, and one case dealing with disability accommodation caught my attention. As most FELTG readers know, after receiving a request for reasonable accommodation, an agency “must make a reasonable effort to determine the appropriate accommodation” for the qualified individual with a disability. 29 C.F.R. Part 1630, app. § 1630.9.

In this case, the complainant worked as a rural mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service. She had several medical conditions that required her to limit her walking and standing time to 1-2 hours per day, to limit the time she spent lifting to no more than 1-2 hours per day, and to limit the amount of weight she lifted to 10 pounds or less. Medical documentation supported these restrictions.

The agency modified some of her job requirements, but not all. The complainant asserted that the agency did not accommodate her fully because it:

  • Assigned her to run the “Blue Door,” which meant she had to walk to the warehouse to speak with supervisors and carriers concerning customer complaints. The total walking time averaged 4-6 hours per day, which violated her medical restrictions; and
  • Required her to deliver Express Mail, which included walking stairs and hills and carrying items in excess of 10 pounds. That also violated her medical restrictions.

The complainant reported that her assignments were violating her medical restrictions. She said rather than be accommodated, she was warned she would be sent home if she could not do the work as assigned.

She also reported that a supervisor threatened to discipline her after she made the supervisor aware the assigned work was violating her medical restrictions. In EEOC’s decision, they found the agency did not properly accommodate the complainant:

Upon review, we find that the record reflects that Complainant was denied a reasonable accommodation for her disability when Agency management required that she work the Blue Door, which required Complainant to walk in excess of her medical restrictions causing her further injury. Complainant asserted that she notified multiple management officials that she was being made to work in excess of medical conditions.

We note that the record reflects that Complainant informed multiple management officials herein that she was provided with duties in excess of her restrictions, but no action was taken to address Complainant’s concerns. In fact, management engaged in retaliatory actions by threatening to send Complainant home for exercising her right to seek out an accommodation and be allowed to work within her restrictions. Based on a review of the record, we find that Complainant established that she was denied reasonable accommodation for her disability when she was made to work in excess of her medical restrictions and subjected to reprisal for attempting to exercise her rights under the Rehabilitation Act.

Marleen G. v. USPS, EEOC No. 2020003464 (Sept. 7, 2021)

The EEOC ordered the agency to ensure the complainant was provided a reasonable accommodation that allowed her to perform her work within her medical restrictions. Remember, partially accommodating an employee without considering all restrictions, is not reasonable accommodation at all. [email protected]

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