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Clarence C. Houser, Jr v. John E. Potter

May 9, 2011

CLARENCE C. HOUSER, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL, UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE,
DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Cathy Bissoon*fn1

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

I.MEMORANDUM

Pending before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 38) filed by Defendant John E. Potter, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service, and a Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff Clarence C. Houser, Jr. (Doc. 42).*fn2 For the reasons stated herein, the Court will grant Defendant's motion and deny Plaintiff's motion. BACKGROUND

A.Procedural Background

Pro se Plaintiff Clarence C. Houser, Jr. brought this action against Defendant John Potter, Postmaster General, United States Postal Service.*fn3 Plaintiff apparently alleges discrimination on the basis of disability, which the parties and this Court have treated as a claim under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq. See Doc. 17 (Memorandum Order (May 21, 2010)).

Other claims brought by Plaintiff were previously dismissed, and the Rehabilitation Act claim is the only pending claim. Id.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant failed to provide a reasonable accommodation for a knee injury and assigned Plaintiff to job tasks beyond the physical restrictions imposed by his doctors. See id. at ¶¶ 6-7. Specifically, Plaintiff appears to allege three theories of discrimination:

(1) Plaintiff was forced to perform work beyond his medical restrictions during his "limited duty" work assignment from November 15, 2007 to about November 27, 2007; (2) Plaintiff was entitled to have "light duty" work assigned to him to accommodate his injury from December 4, 2007 to April 7, 2008; and (3) Plaintiff was forced to work beyond his medical restrictions on April 11, 2008, resulting in a back injury.

Defendant has moved for summary judgment, asserting that: (1) Plaintiff did not have a "disability," as defined by the Rehabilitation Act; (2) Plaintiff was not "otherwise qualified" to perform the essential functions of his job as a letter carrier; (3) Defendant did not fail to accommodate a disability; and (4) Plaintiff was not forced to work beyond his medical restrictions. See Doc. 39 (Def.'s Br.). Plaintiff filed a response (Docs. 42, 43), and Defendant filed a reply (Doc. 44).

B.Factual Background

Plaintiff was formerly employed by the USPS as a part-time Flexible Carrier. See Doc. 41-1 at 2 (letter from Tracie P. Graham to Clarence C. Houser Jr. (May 27, 2004) (Def.'s Exh. A); Doc. 2 at ¶ 5 (Compl.). On August 4, 2007, Plaintiff injured his knee. Doc. 41-8 at 4 (Houser Dep. at 37:5-8 (Def.'s Exh. H)). A doctor's note dated August 7, 2007 noted that "Mr. Clarence Houser is incapacitated at this time until 8/13/7 from his regular walking job." Doc. 41-13 at 2 (Def.'s Exh. M). A doctor's note from August 9, 2007 explained: "Patient not able to stand for long periods of time. Severe knee pain." Id. An August 14, 2007 doctor's note set forth Plaintiff's diagnosis as a meniscal tear with degenerative joint disease. Doc. 41-14 at 2 (Def.'s Exh. N). The doctor prescribed no work until further notice. Id. at 3. On September 24, 2007, Plaintiff had knee surgery. Doc. 41-20 (Doctor's Office Note (Oct. 4, 2007) (Def.'s Exh.

T)); Doc. 43-1 at 16 (Pl.'s Br.).*fn4

On November 6, 2007, a doctor cleared Plaintiff to return to work starting November 14, 2007, restricted to "sedentary work (desk job) no prolong [sic] walking or standing." Doc 41-21 at 3 (Def.'s Exh. U). On November 15, 2007, Plaintiff accepted a "limited duty" work assignment. Id. at 2 (USPS Offer of Modified Assignment (Limited Duty) form (Nov. 15, 2007)). Plaintiff's limited duty work assignment included sedentary work such as answering phones, casing (sorting) mail, and some driving. Doc. 41-4 at ¶¶ 11-13 (McGinnis Decl. (Def.'s Exh. D)); Doc. 43-1 at 17-18 (Pl.'s Br.).

On December 4, 2007, Plaintiff stopped working because his worker's compensation claim was denied, which made him ineligible for a "limited duty" work assignment. Doc. 41-8 at 11-12 (Houser Dep. at 56:25 -- 57:10 (Def.'s Exh. H)); Doc. 41-4 at ΒΆ 14 (McGinnis Decl. (Def.'s Exh. D)); see also Doc. 41-23 at 2 (E-mail from Raymond J. Cvetic to Timothy M. McIntyre (Nov. 26, 2007) (Def.'s Exh. W) (sending denial of Plaintiff's worker's compensation claim and indicating that limited duty work should not be offered to Plaintiff)). Around this time, Mr. Houser requested "light duty" work. Doc. 41-27 at 2 (letter from Plaintiff (undated) (Def.'s Exh. AA)). On December 18, 2007, a doctor's note explained that Plaintiff "[m]ay return to light duty 1-2 hours standing/walking level ground only no stairs, 10 pound weight limits as of Jan 4, 08." Doc. 41-29 at 3 (Def.'s Exh. CC). Defendant approved Plaintiff's request for light duty assignment on December 18, 2007. Id. at 5. Subsequent requests for light duty work based on similar restrictions were approved on January 31, 2008 and March 5, 2008. Doc. 41-31 (Def.'s Exh. EE); Doc. 41-33 (Def.'s Exh. GG). Plaintiff nonetheless ...


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