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Postal worker shot down in discrimination case

A postal worker was fired from his job for his prolonged period of absence. However, the former employee claims that it was a case of discrimination. The case addresses the definition of disability and return to work agreements.

The man was employed as a mail handler for the United States Postal Service in Milwaukee, where he suffered two injuries on the job. The first injury came in 1998 and took him away from work for two weeks. He hurt himself once again in May 2003 and only worked one week before he was finally let go in January 2006.

During the three-year period that the man was out of work, the USPS claimed that they tried to contact his union about the matter but never received a response. The post office eventually informed the man that they were preparing to fire him for not maintaining a regular schedule. The union finally came to his aid and filed a grievance. He agreed to return to work if he was cleared by doctors for full duty.

Two doctors did clear the man to work, but with restrictions. His physical ailments did not allow him to transport heavy items on a regular basis or to stand for long periods of time. Since he was not able to tend to the job's full duties, as the USPS required, the post office decided not to have him back, instructing him instead to apply for disability retirement. He did not.

The ousted worker viewed this as disability discrimination and filed a grievance in arbitration, which was dismissed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also launched an investigation, but it did not find evidence of discrimination. Furthermore a federal court also ruled in favor of the USPS, and that decision was reinforced by an appellate court.

The USPS stressed that they fired him for his poor attendance, not the fact he might have been disabled.

Source: Human Resources Journal, "USPS Mail Handler Claims That He Was Fired for His Disability," April 13, 2012

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