Heidel vs USPS, 2009 MSPB 152, August 5, 2009 by Don Cheney
The Merit Systems Protection Board found that the appellant was not entitled to the limited duty position he wanted. The Postal Service needed only to assign him to a position for which he is qualified. The USPS restructured the appellant’s current position by instructing him not to perform the duties normally associated with the position that exceed his medical restrictions. Thus, in the Board’s view, the appellant was assigned duties that were within his medical restrictions and, therefore, a position for which he is qualified.
The Board was not persuaded by the appellant’s contention that he is not able to determine whether a task violates his restrictions because he is not a medical expert. In the Board’s view, the appellant’s medical restrictions were such that they do not require medical expertise to understand. In fact, because the restrictions were not specific and definite but rather, call for the appellant to avoid certain acts “on a frequent basis,” and to “decrease” other activities, there was no one better able than the appellant to understand whether a particular task on a particular day is within his restrictions.
Comment: OWCP and MSPB mainly care if the limited duty position being offered is within the person’s medical restrictions. The right to challenge a tour change comes from ELM 546 and must be pursued in the grievance procedure as appropriate. If this person is not careful, he could be facing removal for inability to perform the essential functions of his position (an administrative action rather than a disciplinary one). Has he not heard of the “National Reassessment Process?”