Sansone v. Brennan

Sansone, a Postal Service employee since 1981, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1991. By 1999, he used a wheelchair. He parked in a reserved space near the loading docks, where there was room to deploy his wheelchair ramp. In 2011, the manager, Branch, asked Sansone to stop parking there, citing safety concerns and offering Sansone a handicapped spot in front of the building or a reserved space in the back. Neither provided space to deploy his ramp; spots in the back would require him to travel along a busy truck route in the dark. With permission from his supervisor, Sansone continued to park in his usual place, while seeking help from Grieser, chair of the Reasonable Accommodation Committee. Branch threatened to have his van towed. Sansone panicked, experienced chest pain, and left work. His doctor recommended that he stay home until the situation was rectified and prescribed medication. Grieser asked Sansone to provide medical information about his “condition and the specific limitations.” The letter exacerbated Sansone’s frustration because the Service knew that he was confined to a wheelchair. Sansone did not provide the information but claimed that the stress had rendered him unable to return to work. He was granted disability retirement, then sued under the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 791 for constructive discharge and failure to accommodate. The court granted the Service summary judgment on constructive discharge. Sansone won $300,000 in compensatory damages for failure to accommodate. On Sansone’s equitable claim for back and front pay, the court awarded $828,774. The Seventh Circuit vacated in part, upholding a jury instruction about an employee’s obligation to cooperate with his employer in identifying a reasonable accommodation but finding an instruction about how the jury should evaluate the Service’s expert witness (on the issue of compensatory damages) “wrong and prejudicial.” View "Sansone v. Brennan" on Justia Law