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Chaney v. Brennan

United States District Court, W.D. New York

March 29, 2017

EDDIE R. CHANEY, Plaintiff,
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, Defendant.


          DAVID G. LARIMER United States District Judge


         Plaintiff Eddie R. Chaney (“plaintiff”) brings this action against United States Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan, alleging that the United States Postal Service (“USPS”) subjected him to discrimination on the basis of disability and retaliation, all in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §12101 et seq. and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. §791 et seq.[1]

         The USPS now moves for summary judgment dismissing the complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56 (Dkt. #18). For the reasons that follow, that motion is granted.


         In March 2013, plaintiff applied for a City Carrier Assistant (“CCA”) position with USPS. On April 8, 2013, USPS made an offer of employment to plaintiff, contingent on two conditions: (1) USPS had to determine that plaintiff was medically suitable for the physical demands of the CCA position, which would require frequent walking, lifting heavy loads, and driving; and (2) plaintiff had to successfully complete a 90-day trial period during which his conduct and performance could be evaluated.

         Plaintiff accepted the offer, and completed a USPS medical assessment form, indicating that he had a health condition and/or took medication that might impair his ability to perform CCA duties, and that he had work restrictions imposed by a medical care provider within the last two years that could affect his ability to perform the CCA position. As a result, USPS requested plaintiff's medical records and scheduled an examination by an independent physician, Dr. Elaine Tunaitis.

         During the examination, plaintiff reported prior shoulder surgery, low back and neck pain exacerbated by heavy exertion, podiatric surgery and ongoing foot problems, and obstructive sleep apnea, for which plaintiff had been prescribed a CPAP which he used less than 50% of the time. Based on her examination of plaintiff, which included several physical tests, and her review of plaintiff's medical records, including plaintiff's report concerning his CPAP usage, Dr. Tunaitis concluded that plaintiff should be restricted to lifting weights no greater than 40 pounds, and that, due to the fact that his CPAP usage fell below the 70% threshold that she considered a minimum for safe driving, plaintiff should not drive.

         In light of the restrictions indicated by Dr. Tunaitis, USPS Manager of Labor Relations James Gavner (“Gavner”), who also served as Chairman of the District Reasonable Accommodation Committee (“DRAC”), referred plaintiff's application to the DRAC to determine whether reasonable accommodations could be made. After reviewing plaintiff's application and medical records, and holding a discussion with plaintiff on July 2, 2013, the DRAC determined that plaintiff's work restrictions could not be accommodated within the confines of the CCA position. Although the DRAC found that plaintiff's lifting restriction could be accommodated by providing plaintiff with requested assistance with heavy loads, there was no possible accommodation for plaintiff's “no driving” restriction, as driving was an essential component of the CCA position.

         On July 24, 2013, plaintiff contacted the USPS's Equal Employment Opportunity Office, and alleged that Dr. Tunaitis and Gavner had subjected him to discrimination.

         Plaintiff also undertook to increase his CPAP usage to raise it above the 70% threshold that Dr. Tunaitis had identified as determinative for purposes of assessing safe driving by persons with sleep apnea. On July 24, 2013, the Unity Sleep Disorders Clinic issued a note affirming that plaintiff was now 77% compliant in his CPAP usage. The note was provided to Dr. Tunaitis on or around August 27, 2013, at which time she immediately lifted the driving restriction. Plaintiff was cleared to begin work as a CCA on September 5, 2013.

         In spite of his commencing work, on September 28, 2013, plaintiff filed a formal complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), alleging disability-based discrimination by Dr. Tunaitis and Gavner with respect to the initial denial of the CCA position.

         On October 7, 2013, plaintiff began his training and orientation period as a CCA. He was assigned to the Rochester General Mail Facility under the management of Ralph Minni (“Minni”). Mail routes at the GMF were previously planned and tested by the USPS, and further negotiated in conjunction with the postal carriers union. Among the performance expectations for plaintiff and other CCAs was the timely completion of mail delivery routes within an eight-hour day. However, between October 26 and November 21, 2013, plaintiff failed to complete his deliveries 17 times, requiring an additional 24 hours of work. Plaintiff was given additional training and counseling, but his performance failed to improve. Plaintiff was ...

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