9.1 Disability Discrimination Discussion
Sherry is employed with the United States Postal Commission (“USPC”) in the bulk mail room. She works the day shift.
In 1976, she developed a seizure disorder after hitting her head while playing volleyball. She suffered her first seizure soon after this injury. On year later, she was hospitalized for repeated grand mal seizures. In 1984, she again was hospitalized for grand mal seizures. During this hospitalization, she suffered respiratory arrest and her heartbeat temporarily was lost. However, she has suffered no more seizures since that time. Sherry continues to treat with a neurologist and internists. Her condition is controlled with medication. From time to time, she experiences short “staring” spells and twitching of her chin and arm.
In addition to the medication prescribed, Sherry’s doctors have prescribed that she maintain a regular sleeping schedule between the hours of 12:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m. and not drink alcohol. Sleep deprivation and flashing lights may exacerbate her condition.
Recently, due to budget cuts, the post office at which Sherry works has reduced its workforce. It has also reduced the number of shifts available to employees. Within the next month, it will cease its bulk mail room operations during the day. All operations will take place during the night. This is because most bulk mail deliveries and collections are made at 5:00 p.m.
These changes are of concern to Sherry, especially because her doctors have instructed that she continue her regular sleeping schedule to avoid risk of future seizures. Furthermore, management has not been very responsive to her concerns. One manager has suggested that she request a transfer to another post office located 37 miles from Sherry’s home. However, there is no guarantee that her request will be granted. Another has declined to offer her a position at the front desk because “those positions go to others with more seniority.”
It is inevitable that Sherry will lose her job because she is not able to work the night shift. She is uncertain whether she may be the victim of disability discrimination. As the premier employment litigator in town, she seeks your opinion on whether or not she should pursue a claim against the USPC. Draft an opinion letter to her which discusses the prima facie elements for successfully establishing a claim based on disability discrimination and states your opinion on whether or not she may have a viable claim against the USPC.