Postal Worker Wins $1.1 Million in Disability Case

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By Michael J. Bologna

A former postal worker at a suburban Chicago mail sorting facility who suffers from multiple sclerosis and was denied a handicap parking space was awarded $1.1 million by a federal judge, an attorney for the worker told Bloomberg Law Oct. 16.

Anthony Sansone, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Postal Service, was granted $828,744 in lost compensation under an Oct. 10 order by U.S. District Court Judge Milton Shadur ( Sansone v. Donahoe , N.D. Ill., No. 1:13-cv-3415, 10/10/17 ). The award comes on top of $300,000 in compensatory damages granted to Sansone on March 10 following a one-week jury trial. Sansone originally filed a discrimination claim against the USPS in May 2013 under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Jacob Hamann, an associate at Eimer Stahl LLP in Chicago, said the $1.1 million award restores some of the dignity Sansone lost when he was forced to retire because USPS rescinded his handicap parking privileges—a “reasonable accommodation” he had enjoyed for 12 years.

“He is really gratified by this result,” Hamann said. “Work was Tony’s life. It’s what he based his identity on. It gave him a reason to keep going. He loved it and he loved working at the plant. It was really a tough thing when he wasn’t able to do that. This help sets things right.”

Sansone was represented by a pro bono team from Eimer Stahl, Paul Strauss of the Law Office of Paul Strauss, and the Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights.

The Department of Justice, which represented the USPS in the litigation, didn’t respond to Bloomberg Law’s request for comment on Shadur’s order.

Handicap Parking Space

Sansone began working for the USPS in 1981 and was eventually elevated to maintenance supervisor at the service’s bulk mail facility in Forest Park, Ill., according to the intitial complaint. Sansone’s multiple sclerosis progressed over the course of his career, and in 1999, he was required to use a wheelchair. Sansone’s supervisors granted him a handicap parking space, offering him easy access to a wheelchair-accessible entrance to the sorting facility.

Following managerial changes in 2011, a new plant supervisor abruptly revoked Sansone’s parking accommodation. Hamann said Sansone never received a fair explanation for the change. The supervisor threatened to tow Sansone’s specially equipped van if he continued to park in the previously provided space. Hamann said the denial of this accommodation left Sansone unable to safely access the building and forced him to retire early.

Strauss said his client was denied an “extraordinarily reasonable accommodation” for a job he had performed well for many years.

“We hope this verdict reminds the US Postal Service and other employers that persons in the disabled community are eager to work, and in many instances, require only very simple modifications to perform their jobs,” Strauss said in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael J. Bologna in Chicago at mbologna@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com

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