A class-action lawsuit 10 years in the making has finally come to a close with the recent decision by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ordering the U.S. Postal Service to pay up to 130,000 former and current employees. At the heart of the lawsuit are allegations that USPS was using an internal program to systematically dismiss injured employees, and did so while claiming to be helping the workers.
According to an article from Government Executive, USPS’s National Reassessment Program treated certain workers unequally, disclosed medical information improperly, and did not provide reasonable accommodations (while also not proving undue burden as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 Section 101.8). The purported intent of the National Reassessment Program, which lasted from 2006 to 2011, was to create a path for employees to get back to work and eliminate busy work that did not support the major functions of the postal service.As our knowledgeable Los Angeles disability discrimination attorneys can explain, the ruling by the EEOC outlined violations by USPS of Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. Section 791(g), which incorporates ADA, 42 U.S.C. Section 12112(a). The ADA was established to prevent discrimination against those with disabilities “in all areas of public life, including jobs,” so that people with disabilities have the same rights as those without, and that they have access to the equal opportunities.
EEOC ruled this act was not honored by USPS when it created the National Reassessment Program. As part of the program, USPS tasked specialists to compile “activity files” for all limited duty or rehabilitation employees in 74 districts. Many employees were in “make-work” or nonessential jobs after injuries prevented them from completing labor-intensive functions of regular mail delivery. According to the EEOC’s ruling, it was up to the specialists to determine if there was an open position that would be a good fit for the employee, under the guise of getting them back into an essential job. But it was ruled that this practice was discriminatory against employees with disabilities and that the program was being used as an excuse to systematically eliminate those workers.
The lawsuit began with one employee who suffered a work-related injury in 1997. The worker remained an employee with USPS until 2006, when injury compensation specialists through the National Reassessment Program identified her work at the time as unnecessary and placed her on leave without pay. A class-action lawsuit was formed by including others who experienced similar treatment. Over the duration of the program, 15,000 were indeed given new assignments. Meanwhile 10,000 others were dismissed. More than 100,000 workers recovered from injuries enough to resume their old duties or left on their own accord during the time the program was place, bringing the total employees eligible to file claims up to the 130,000.
Evidence in the case was nothing short of horrifying, including emails that outright celebrated the elimination of injured employees from the payrolls, which representatives from EEOC said proved the intention of the program was to specifically target those with disabilities and not to eliminate extraneous work.
There are few things our lawyers can think of that is more reprehensible than denying disabled employees the right to work. It’s even worse when you consider their injuries were obtained working for the very employers that would later turn their back on them. It’s simply not right, and it’s why our firm is so passionate about fighting against disability discrimination in the workplace.
Contact the employment attorneys at Nassiri Law Group, practicing in Orange County, Riverside and Los Angeles. Call 949.375.4734.
Velva B. v. United States Postal Service, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
More Blog Entries:
ADA Requires Workers Be Able to Perform Essential Job Functions, Feb. 18, 2017, Employment Lawyers Blog