According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Postal Service fired or forced out approximately 44,000 workers who were injured on the job, and changed or revoked disability accommodations for another 15,130. These measures took place as part of an initiative called the “National Reassessment Program.” The EEOC claims the program was discriminatory, but the post office continues to fight every claim.
At the USPS, severe and disabling injuries are common. Although the agency of over 630,000 people makes up only about a fifth of the federal workforce, postal workers suffer about half of all workplace injuries and illnesses among federal workers.
What to do when a worker can no longer perform their job duties
If an employee is injured on the job and can no longer perform their regular job duties, it is illegal for that individual’s employer to retaliate against them by firing the employee. Rather, unless it would cause the employer undue hardship, the employer must provide the injured employee with a reasonable accommodation to allow them to perform the regular job duties as before.
If an employee becomes disabled and can no longer perform their job duties, even with an accommodation, the employer must reassign that employee to another vacant job that they are able to perform. Although no employer is required to create work that does not exist so that an employee with a disability will have a job, the employee must be provided the opportunity if an employer has other positions available that the injured person could ably perform.
According to testimony of USPS officials, the purpose of the “National Reassessment Program” was to ensure that employees with disabilities were performing “necessary work” and to move workers back into their original positions once they had recuperated.
However, according to an EEOC judge, in reality, the program served to get rid of many injured and disabled employees, especially those who had been moved into new positions due to medical restrictions.
In both 2015 and 2017, the EEOC ruled that the USPS’s National Reassessment Program illegally discriminated against injured and disabled employees in three ways:
- Creating a work environment hostile to employees with injuries and disabilities
- Taking away disability accommodations
- Revealing confidential medical information
Federal workers are protected from this type of discrimination by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. If you believe you have been affected by disability discrimination, contact an experienced employment law attorney.