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State Court Case Highlights Need For Reasonable Accommodations After Disability

According to the Rehabilitation Act, an employer who fails to make reasonable accommodations can be found guilty of discrimination. However, based upon a recent court case, a federal worker must have made a request for the accommodations for this to have an effect.

Court Case Clarifies Reasonable Accommodations For Disability

The case that brought this to light was heard Jan. 14, 2012 in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Missouri. The defendant made a motion to dismiss a claim a former U.S. Postal Service worker had filed, saying the company failed to make reasonable accommodations for the disability.

The plaintiff, who was a letter carrier, was hired by the U.S. Postal Service in 1998. The worker suffered with both cerebral palsy and scoliosis, which means his right leg is weaker and shorter than his left. For years, the worker used a cane along his mail route. This arrangement worked for several years until Sept. 18, 2009 when his supervisor said his cane use was considered a safety hazard and didn’t put him on the clock.

The court heard from the supervisor who suggested the letter carrier get disability retirement and suggested he work for the postal service as a janitor. The supervisor did not allow the worker to come back to work as a mail carrier and put him on light duty.

Under the law, an employer who offers light duty, limited duty or some kind of informal arrangement is not making reasonable accommodations that allow them to fulfill the duties of the hired position.

According to the postal worker, the actions of his supervisor were in direct violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. After his administrative remedies had been exhausted, the former employee filed a lawsuit that alleged disable discrimination and failure to accommodate.

The Postal Service was seeking a dismissal of the complaint, starting he did not make a request for reasonable accommodation.

The judge did say the postal worker had a good case regarding the issue. But, that the hearing was not about whether or not the plaintiff will win but if the plaintiff should be allowed to bring evidence to court that supports his claim.

Employers are, by law, demanded to alter work requirements that allows disabled persons to have the same job opportunities as those non-disabled workers.

However, in order for employers to carry this out, an employee must make a request for disability accommodation. The court ruled in favor of the Postal Service – dismissing the claim, citing an employer does not have to accommodate employees who did not make an accommodation request.

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