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The U.S. Postal Service's $61 million settlement

10:25 AM, Jun 5, 2007   |    comments
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The claims were filed by more than 7,500 current and former postal workers. According to Denver labor law attorney Kim Ryan, it's the biggest case of its type. She joined us on 9News at 6 a.m.

A Denver man - who was injured on the job, put into a rehabilitation position, but then was never moved from that job or promoted - is the USPS worker who initially filed the lawsuit.

The USPS vigorously fought against allegations it discriminated against its employees, but ultimately – it did settle. It will also have to train its managers on workplace discrimination as part of the settlement.

Ryan says this case is a reminder that although workplaces should do their best to accommodate disabled employees, they shouldn't pigeonhole them into one job for an extended period of time, because they may be able to a lot more.

Background on the Case

The suit was filed in 1992 by Chandler Glover, now 65, of Aurora. He said he was denied advancement opportunities by USPS officials in Denver after he was injured on the job in 1991.

"I got to keep the same salary, but I was denied any promotions, any transfers or anything of that nature," said Glover, who retired in 1999. The Postal Service had classified him as a "permanent rehabilitation employee" and denied him the opportunity to advance after he, like thousands of other postal workers, had hurt his back. Five years later thousands more postal employees joined the lawsuit as a class action.

The Postal Service hotly disputed the allegations. There was no "smoking gun" memo or document proving that the Agency had a practice or unwritten policy of denying advancement and promotion opportunities to the class.

In fact, according to Glover's lawyer, the Postal Service offered a plausible explanation of the lower promotion rates of class members–the very impairments that rendered them disabled limited their interest and ability to be promoted. Nevertheless, the Postal Service ultimately settled with the class, agreeing to pay back pay and other monetary relief, but the settlement agreement includes no admission of wrongdoing. 

About the Settlement

The Settlement offers up to $25,000 each to employees who can show they were discriminated against because of their rehabilitation status. The amount of the settlement is based on the severity of the discrimination and the timing of their injury. The settlement also requires postal officials to ensure that managers do not discriminate against rehabilitating employees.

Nearly a third of the employees in rehabilitation positions since 1992 will recover under the settlement. All totaled, the Postal Service could pay as much as $625-million. The agency will change how it classifies injured employees. It will also provide training to postal supervisors.

The settlement claims administrator plans to mail a claim form and related materials to employees listed by the Postal Service as potential members of the class. This mailing should take place the week of July 12.

Significance of the Case

Brad Seligman of The Impact Fund, a Berkeley, California nonprofit law firm that led the negotiations for the class, explained the importance of the settlement: "While disability class actions are rare, this case shows that stigmatizing employees because of their status can have enormous consequences."

The law relating to disability discrimination remains unsettled, and the recent trend of Supreme Court cases has been disquieting for employees with disabilities. "After all the suffering I went through, knowing that 20,000-something people are going to be helped and some of the policies are going to be changed makes me feel real good," Glover said.

Denver attorney John Mosby, lead counsel for the class, has fought this case for over 14 years. "I am happy that a case that started out as an individual claim by one worker, has led to a measure of justice for thousands." The class was also represented by Elisa Moran of Denver, and Marilyn Cain Gordon of Washington D.C.

Additional Resources:

Further information on this lawsuit, including the settlement documents, may be found at www.gloverclass.com.

For further information about workplace disability discrimination, check the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's website at www.eeoc.gov

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