Court Decisions & Disability Issues Briefs
A project of the Southeast ADA Center and Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University

Prioleau v. Potter

U.S. District Court of South Carolina
No. 2:05-2331-CWH, 2007 WL 2688608
September 10, 2007

Facts of the Case

Mr. Rodney Prioleau was employed as a Mail Handler at the Charleston, South Carolina Processing and Distribution Center from 1981 to 2000. In February 2000, a co-worker kicked Mr. Prioleau in the buttocks, which caused lower back pain and soreness. After the incident, other employees allegedly harassed and humiliated him at work. Mr. Prioleau felt it had become a hostile work environment and stopped working at the facility in April 2000. His physician admitted him to an outpatient mental health program and diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

In August 2000, Mr. Prioleau was reassigned to limited duty janitorial duties at the East Bay USPS Station in Charleston. Shortly thereafter Mr. Prioleau fell off of a dock at the station, and as a result, his treating physician instructed him not to reach above his shoulder or lift more than 10 pounds. USPS thereafter made attempts to reassign Mr. Prioleau to a position that would accommodate his needs, but none of the options proved satisfactory for Mr. Prioleau, either because of job locations or his physical restraints. Without success, USPS ceased its efforts to accommodate him. Mr. Prioleau brought suit against John Potter, the Postmaster General of the USPS, in part alleging a violation of the Rehabilitation Act.

Issues of the Case

  1. Whether the USPS failed to engage in the interactive process and reassign Mr. Prioleau to an appropriate job to accommodate his disability.

Arguments & Analysis

1. Mr. Prioleau argued that the USPS discriminated against him on the basis of his degenerative disc impairment, post-traumatic stress disorder, and generalized anxiety by offering job reassignments that would require him to perform tasks exceeding his medical restrictions.

USPS asserted it was unable to reassign Mr. Prioleau to a position he was able to perform with or without accommodation, and Mr. Prioleau failed in his burden to identify such a position.

2. The court determined USPS engaged in an interactive process with Mr. Prioleau to reasonably accommodate his needs, but Mr. Prioleau refused all available positions, and there were no other positions available in Charleston at the same pay level that could accommodate Mr. Prioleau's disability.

The court declared that USPS was only required to consider positions for Mr. Prioleau within the same grade or level as his previous position, and USPS had no duty to promote or create a position for Mr. Prioleau in order to accommodate his disability.

Rulings

Mr. Prioleau failed to show that USPS's inability to identify a position that could accommodate his needs was a result of their unwillingness to engage in the interactive process. Rather, the court found that USPS did use reasonable effort in the interactive process to reassign him, but no such position was available, and thus no unlawful discrimination occurred.

Disclaimer:

These materials do not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon in any individual case. Please consult an attorney licensed in your state for legal advice and/or representation. These materials were prepared by the legal research staff of the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University in partnership with the Southeast ADA Center to highlight legal and policy developments relevant to civil rights protections and the impact of court decisions in the Southeast Region under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These materials are based on federal disability rights laws and court decisions in effect at the time of publication. Federal and state disability rights law can change at any time.  In addition, state and local laws and regulations may provide different or additional protections. Materials are intended solely as informal guidance, and are neither a determination of your legal rights nor responsibilities under the ADA or other federal, state, and local laws, nor binding on any agency with enforcement responsibility under the ADA. The accuracy of any information contained herein is not warranted. Any links to external websites are provided as a courtesy and are not intended to nor do they constitute an endorsement of the linked materials.

Southeast ADA Center

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