George Ulrich of Croton has worked for the Scarsdale Post Office for the past 25 years. Since his daughter was born 17 years ago he was permitted to start work at 5:30 a.m. and be home by 2:30 p.m. That was up until a year ago when the postal service changed his shift to 7:30 a.m. Now he is taking his employer to court.
Ulrich’s daughter Victoria was born with Treacher-Collins syndrome, a facial-cranial disorder, and as a result has no outer ears, cannot speak without assistance and has seizures. He worked the earlier shift so he could care for his daughter after school while his wife, Allison, worked long hours in Rockland.
He would get in at 5:30 a.m. and sort out everyone’s mail a task that was not part of his job and then prepare his own a 208-stop delivery route. He would get his route down and be done with his shift with enough time to take his daughter off of the bus.
Last year they changed his shift to two-hours later. In order to get his daughter off of the bus he must leave work early and lose two hours pay per day. “I end up losing about $200 a week because of this,” Ulrich said. “Then they just asked two other workers to come in at 6 a.m. and they are getting paid overtime.”
Ulrich and his attorney Jonathan Bell are suing the postal service for discrimination. The USPS website says it will give “reasonable accommodation” to a worker “responsible or caring for a person with a disability.”
Yet Ulrich claims that his supervisors said “that they did not have to accommodate me because of my daughter.” “They have been doing it for the past seventeen years,” he said. “Why stop now?”
Bell’s case for Ulrich revolves around the need for individuals who care for severely disabled individuals to be covered. Bell is willing to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Ulrich just wants to return to his old shift.
“I can’t retire because you need to be 55 years old or be with the postal service for 30 years,” he said. “I have another five years to go.”
Meanwhile the loss of income has made it harder to survive. The Ulrichs owe thousands of dollars to ConEdison as well as other bills. “We do all that we can just too barely make ends meet,” he stated.
You will see no sign of concern on Ulrich’s face when his daughter walks into the room. He gets that twinkle in his eye and she has a big grin on her face. The love shared between them is apparent even before Victoria comes over to give her father a hug or snuggle into his side.
“This is the reason why I am willing to fight,” he said. “She needs me here and family means more than any job.”
The US Postal Service refused to comment.