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Banks v. Brennan

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 6, 2015

ITASKA BANKS, Plaintiff,
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, [1] Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, Defendant.


THOMAS C. MUMMERT, III, Magistrate Judge.

This action is before the Court on the opposed motion of Megan J. Brennan, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service (USPS), for summary judgment on the claims of Plaintiff, Itaska Banks, that she has been discriminated against because of her disability, in violation of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq.


The facts relevant to a resolution of the pending motion are as follows.

From March 1986 until November 2012, Plaintiff, Itaska Banks, worked as a mark-up clerk for the Computerized Forwarding Unit (CFU) of the USPS in St. Louis. (Def.'s Stat. ¶ 1-2, [2] ECF No. 32.) She was then, and is now, considered disabled by osteoarthritis. (See Def.'s Mem. at 6, ECF No. 31 (stating that Defendant does not dispute that Plaintiff has a disability for purposes of the instant motion)). Specifically, she cannot stand for longer than ten minutes. (Def.'s Ex. C, ECF No.32-3.) She does not have any difficulty walking. (Pl.'s Depo. at 120, ECF No. 32-9.) Throughout this period, Plaintiff used a rest bar and had a "special" chair to help her perform her duties. (Def.'s Stat. ¶ 5.)

In approximately November 2011, all thirty to forty employees in the CFU were told that the unit work was being transferred to Indianapolis, no employees were to be transferred with the work, and the St. Louis CFU would be closed. (Pl.'s Depo. at 22, 39-40; Def.'s Stat. ¶ 6-7.) In September 2012, all St. Louis employees of the CFU were told they would be transferred to a Tour One[3] Automation Unit when their current unit closed in November of that year. (Def's Stat. ¶ 7; Def.'s Ex. A, ECF No. 32-1.) Plaintiff received a letter advising her that, because the CFS unit was closing, she would be considered "an unassigned regular and involuntarily reassigned" employee as of the close of business on November 24, 2012. (Def.'s Ex. A.) As such, she was "encouraged to bid on posted vacancies for which [she] [was] eligible." (Id.) Absent a successful bid, she would be assigned to any vacant duty assignment in accordance with the applicable collective bargaining agreement. (Id.) At one point, Russell Thouvenot, a USPS officer, spoke to the employees and informed them that if they elected not to be transferred they could apply for early retirement or disability or bid on an open job. (Pl.'s Dep. at 139-40.) It was Thouvenot who initially told the CFU employees that the unit was going to close. (Id. at 23.)

The job at the Automation Unit was that of a Mail Processing Clerk. (Def.'s Stat. ¶ 8.) The duties of this job included, among other things, "[o]n a rotation basis, " loading mail onto automated equipment, culling out non-processable items, monitoring the flow of mail to ensure a continuous feed, sweeping separated mail from the bins/stackers, and clearing jams. (Pl.'s Compl. Ex. at 15, ECF No. 1-1.) The qualifications for the position required "arduous exertion involving prolonged standing." (Id.) Plaintiff's standing restrictions prevented her from doing the job. (Def.'s Ex. D, ECF No. 32-4.) Debra Collins, with the USPS District Reasonable Accommodation Committee, wrote Plaintiff in December 2012 that she then had four options. (Id.) First, Plaintiff could identify a position with the USPS that was suitable for voluntary reassignment. (Id.) If she found such a position, she had to submit a written request and be medically qualified for the job. (Id.) Second, if she thought reasonable accommodations would allow her to perform the essential functions of her position or would assist in her reassignment to a suitable position, she could make a written request for consideration by the Committee. (Id.) Third, she might apply for optional or disability retirement if eligible. (Id.) Fourth, she could resign. (Id.)

During a subsequent conversation with Ms. Collins, Plaintiff asked her if she was going to help Plaintiff find a position that would accommodate her. (Pl.'s Dep. at 71-72.) Ms. Collins replied that "it didn't work that way." (Id. at 72.) Plaintiff would have to find and get the position and then Ms. Collins would try to accommodate her. (Id.)

Later in December, Ms. Collins wrote Plaintiff about a job they had discussed over the telephone. (Def.'s Ex. E-1, ECF No. 32-5.) The job was as a Sales, Services/Distribution Associate (SSDA), or window clerk, position at the O'Fallon Post Office. (Id.) She further informed Plaintiff that she could request voluntary reassignment to the position if she was medically qualified to perform its essential functions. (Id.) The attached job description listed continuous standing as a functional requirement. (Id. at 7-8.) Plaintiff went to the O'Fallon Post Office and interviewed for the job. (Pl.'s Dep. at 72.) She was told by the manager that the manager could not use her because she would be unable to do "the back part of the job." (Id. at 72, 73.) This part required that she stand and "throw" flats. (Id. at 72, 84, 86.) According to the manager, it could not be done by using a rest bar because the person had to move around to get to all the bins. (Id. at 84.) Plaintiff agreed, but considered an accommodation to be that she would not be required to throw the flats. (Id. at 84-87.)

In January 2013, Ms. Collins wrote Plaintiff about two job postings: one for the position of Time and Attendance Clerk and one for the position of Data Collection Tech. (Def.'s Ex. F, ECF No. 32-7.) Plaintiff applied for both, but was not interviewed for either. (Pl.'s Dep. at 89.) She does not think she has the necessary background experience for either position. (Id.)

Later that month, Plaintiff successfully bid on a window clerk position at the Maryville Gardens Post Office. (Def.'s Stat. ¶ 25.) The job would have been hers had she passed a scheme test requiring that she memorize a random selection of house numbers and street addresses. (Pl.'s Dep. at 90-93.) Plaintiff did not pass the test. (Id. at 90.) She does not attribute her failure to her disability. (Id. at 93.)

Between the time Plaintiff bid on the Maryville job and the time she did not pass the test, she informed Ms. Collins of her apparently successful bid. (Pl.'s Dep. at 89-90.) Consequently, Ms. Collins closed her file. (Def.'s Ex. G, ECF No. 32-8.)

Plaintiff successfully bid for a window clerk position in May 2014 at the Southwest Post Office. (Def.'s Stat. ¶ 28.) This position did not require a scheme test. (Pl.'s Dep. at 96.) It does require that she take incoming mail and sell stamps and services. (Id. at 31.) She asked for an accommodation of not having to stand and was timely given a stool. (Id. at 32.) She is still employed at that post office. (Def.'s Stat. ¶ 30.)

In addition to the foregoing positions, Plaintiff also bid for a registry job in May 2014. (Pl.'s Dep. at 97, 104, 108.) She was not successful. (Id. at 98.) She was told that she could not perform that job due to her medical restrictions and that the job had the same requirements as the mail processing clerk position. (Id. at 98, 113, 114.) Her friend who works in the registry department had told her that she could do the registry job and that rest ...

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