The failure of an employer to make a reasonable accommodation is a form of prohibited discrimination under the Rehabilitation Act.

But a federal worker must have requested an accommodation for an employer’s duty to accommodate to take effect, a recent court case states.

The case in question was Rick Gillette v. Patrick R. Donahoe, Postmaster General, U.S. Postal Service, which was heard in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Missouri on January 14, 2012.

The court heard the defendant’s motion to dismiss a claim made by a former postal worker that the U.S. Postal Service failed to make reasonable accommodation for his disability.

Gillette was hired in 1998 by the United States Postal Service as a letter carrier. Cerebral palsy and scoliosis, meant his right leg is shorter and weaker than his left one and for a number of years he used a cane on his mail route.

The arrangement seemed to work well for many years until on September 18, 2009, his supervisor told him that his use of a cane was a safety hazard and “put him off the clock.”

The court heard the supervisor urged Gillette to apply for disability retirement and also suggested he could work as a janitor. He was not allowed to return to his mail route and his supervisor placed him on light duty.

As I stated in a previous article if your employer offers you light duty, limited duty or an informal arrangement such as a makeshift position, this may not be reasonable accommodation under the law that enables the performance of the “duties” of the position.

Gillette alleged his supervisor’s actions violated the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. After he exhausted his administrative remedies, he filed suit alleging disability discrimination and a failure to accommodate on behalf of the Postal Service.

The Postal Service sought to dismiss the worker’s complaint stating he failed to request a reasonable accommodation.

Although the judge suggested the postal worker had a good case the issue, according to the record of the hearing, was “not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but whether the plaintiff is entitled to present evidence in support of his claim.”

Employers must modify their work requirements to enable disabled individuals to have the same opportunities as workers who are not disabled.

However, to impose this duty, the employee must request accommodation for his or her disability. The court ruled the employer has no duty to accommodate if the employee fails to make a request for accommodation, as was the case in Gillette’s case.

The court granted the Postal Service’s motion to dismiss the worker’s complaint based on an alleged failure to accommodate.

We help employees with Request for Reasonable Accommodation and EEO/MSPB Cases and OPM Disability Retirement for FERS/CSRS employees. We work closely with you and your healthcare provider to collect all of the necessary records and information to help you in preparing yourOPM Request or Appeal.