The opinion of the court was delivered by: MICHAEL MASON, Magistrate Judge
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Shannon Winston ("Winston") filed this action
pursuant to the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 701 et seq.,
alleging disability discrimination arising out of his termination
from the United States Postal Service ("the Postal Service"). The
Postal Service filed a motion for summary judgment. For the
reasons set forth below, the Postal Service's motion for summary
judgment is denied.
History of Winston's Knee Condition
Winston injured his right knee in 1992 while on active duty
with the United States Navy. In August 1994, he had surgery on
his right knee and was subsequently placed on limited duty
status. As a result of continued problems with his right knee, in
November 1996, the Naval Medical Board found that Winston was not
fit for full duty and would not be able to perform his duties
shipboard without significant complaints of pain. The Medical
Board, therefore, recommended that Winston be discharged from the
Navy. Winston was discharged from the Navy because of disability in August 1997. He
received disability severance pay of approximately $19,525.
Wintson's Employment with The Postal Service
In March 1998, Winston applied for a job as a mail carrier with
the Postal Service's facility in Joliet. Winston filled out an
application for employment, PS Form 2591. On that form, Winston
denied receiving compensation based on military service. Winston
also submitted a DD Form 214 to the Postal Service along with his
application prior to his hire. Winston's DD Form 214 reflects
that he was discharged from the Navy because of a disability and
that he received a disability severance payment.
On March 27, 1998, a physician employed by the Postal Service
examined Winston as a precondition for his employment. As part of
his examination, Winston filled out PS Form 2485, "Medical
Examination & Assessment." On the PS Form 2485, Winston stated:
(1) that he had never needed a special or restricted job
assignment due to illness, injury or physical impairment; (2)
that he had an operation, but he did not offer any details; (3)
that he had never received compensation or a cash settlement from
an employer, including the government, for injury or disease; (4)
that his right knee had been x-rayed in 1994 but he omitted any
reason(s) for the x-ray; (5) that he had never been discharged
from military service because of any physical or mental reasons;
and (6) that he regularly exercised. Winston failed to answer a
question on PS Form 2485 asking whether he had ever had
arthritis. Winston also failed to answer a question asking
whether he had ever filed a disability claim or received
compensation from the U.S. government.
The Postal Service's examining physician found that Winston
presented no significant medical findings and that he was not
limited or restricted in performing the duties expected by the Postal Service. The examining physician also
found that Winston presented no medical risk/restriction and was
medically qualified for a job as a mail carrier, without
Winston began working in Joliet as a mail carrier in May 1998.
During his employment with the Postal Service, Winston was
disciplined on several occasions for being late, taking
unscheduled sick leave and for being AWOL on two occasions.
Winston was informed that failure to correct his irregular
behavior could result in termination. On August 20, 1999, Winston
requested light duty until August 25, 1999.*fn1 On August
25, 1999, a VA physician diagnosed Winston with patella
tendinitis of the left knee and indicated that Winston's
walking requirements at work should be reduced to three hours per
day. The parties dispute whether the Postal Service actually
decreased Winston's walking requirements for three weeks.
Winston's November 1999 Right Knee Injury
On November 10, 1999, Winston reported to his superiors that he
injured his right knee the previous day at work. An examining
physician at Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet diagnosed
Winston as having a right knee sprain. On November 12, 1999,
Winston's personal physician examined his right knee and
recommended that he apply for limited duty at work, with
restrictions of limited walking and no squatting or climbing.
Winston's physician filled out Department of Labor Form CA-17 in
order for Winston to request a limited duty assignment. On November 15, 1999, Winston filed a worker's compensation
claim. Postmaster Lolita Rice ("Ms. Rice") sent a letter to the
injury compensation manager that same day requesting a denial of
Winston's claim. Ms. Rice testified that she wrote this
"controversion letter" because after reviewing Winston's file,
she determined that he had a pre-existing injury. Despite Ms.
Rice's letter, Winston's worker's compensation claim was
accepted. Ms. Rice then asked the Postal Inspection Service to
initiate a worker's compensation fraud investigation into
Winston's alleged injury. The Postal Inspection Service
subsequently began that investigation.
Also on November 15, 1999, Winston requested counseling from an
EEOC counselor due to the Postal Service's failure to provide
appropriate claim forms and the Postal Service's failure to treat
his injury as an on-the-job injury. Winston never filed a formal
complaint with the EEOC.
Winston accepted a 30-day limited duty job offer designed to
accommodate his right knee injury on November 16, 1999. Winston's
tasks were limited to answering phones, updating forms, marking
Loop mail and other desk work. On December 6, 1999, Winston's
personal physician recommended that he be kept in a "sit-down"
job with no squatting, or climbing and only limited walking. On
December 27, 1999, Winston accepted another 30-day limited duty
assignment. In ...