USPS Reaches $17.3M Disability Discrimination Settlement
By Anne Bucher
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has agreed to pay nearly $17.3 million to settle allegations that the agency discriminated against employees with disabilities.
The class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of 41,000 past and current USPS workers whose hours may have been restricted because of permanent disabilities from 2000-2012. The plaintiffs allege that the USPS violated the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, a law that prevents federal agencies from discriminating against disabled workers.
In 2000, Edmond Walker filed an individual discrimination complaint against the USPS. He claimed that the USPS had discriminated against him based on his permanent rehabilitation status when his duty hours were restricted to just 14 hours per week. He was also denied the opportunity to work overtime. In 2005, his claim was certified as a class action lawsuit by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Eligible members of this USPS disability discrimination settlement include permanent rehabilitation employees who had their work hours restricted. Restricted work hours refer to limitations imposed by the USPS on the actual number of hours the employee could work. These restrictions allegedly resulted in the denial of overtime.
Plaintiffs allege that the Postal Service discriminated against employees with disabilities by wrongfully placing them in permanent rehabilitation positions without following the interactive process that is legally required. They also allege that the hour restrictions were arbitrary and not based on the employee’s actual abilities as determined by a physician. In addition, they allege that the USPS did not allow disabled employees to use assistive devices to accommodate their disabilities, even if the assistive devices posed no safety threat or inconvenience to the workplace.
The USPS has denied any wrongdoing, but agreed to settle the class action lawsuit to avoid the expense of ongoing litigation. The settlement has received preliminary approval from an EEOC administrative judge last month. If finalized, Class Members could be eligible to receive up to $300 per employee. However, the actual amount Class Members will receive depends on how many workers file claims.
While the settlement still requires final approval from the EEOC, Class Members are expected to receive formal notification of the settlement agreement next week. More information can be found at www.WalkerClass.com.
This class action lawsuit is not the first to accuse the USPS of discrimination against employees with disabilities. In 2007, the agency agreed to pay $61 million to resolve allegations from USPS workers who claimed they were placed in jobs with little opportunity for advancement due to their disabilities. As part of the settlement agreement, the agency agreed to several policy changes. Some of these changes included rewriting training manuals, setting up a hotline for employment problems, issuing notices related to the rights of workers in rehabilitation positions and providing statistical information about the promotions of employees in these rehabilitation positions. This settlement agreement was one of the biggest of its type.
The USPS Disability Discrimination Class Action Lawsuit case is Edmund Walker, et al. v. Patrick R. Donahoe, Case No. 541-2008-00188X.
Plaintiffs are represented by John Mosby, Marilyn Cain Gordon, Elisa J. Moran and John W. Davis.
Updated June 29th, 2013
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