Multiple Disability Requests Signal The Need For A Change

Written exclusively for ChubbWorks

FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. agreed to pay $3.3 million to settle a company-wide disability discrimination lawsuit brought against it by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC conducted a nationwide systemic investigation after a number of deaf and hard-of-hearing FedEx Ground package handlers across the country filed ADA discrimination charges with the EEOC.

The lawsuit alleged that the employer denied reasonable accommodations to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals applying to be package handlers. The position requires loading, unloading, scanning, and routing packages at distribution facilities.

FedEx Ground also agreed to a two-year consent decree requiring it to provide live and remote American Sign Language interpreting, captioned videos, and scanning equipment with non-audible cues to its deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers. It will protect their safety by implementing visual warning lights on all tuggers, forklifts, and other motorized equipment and providing personal notification devices to alert them of an emergency.

FedEx Ground further agreed to train managers and human resources representatives on ADA compliance; create written resources to help identify and provide accommodations to deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers; and designate a vice president to oversee the organization's implementation of the consent decree and reporting to the EEOC.

The consent decree identifies 229 individuals who may receive payment from the settlement.

The EEOC attempted to reach an agreement through its conciliation process before filing the lawsuit. "FedEx Ground to Pay $3.3 Million to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit" eeoc.gov (May 19, 2020).

Commentary and Checklist

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations requested by qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. The purpose of accommodations is to allow the employee to perform the essential functions of the job and enjoy the equal benefits and privileges of employment.

If several employees with a similar disability request, as in the source article, request accommodations, this should signal an employer that compliance with the ADA may be lacking, and the employer’s entire policy as to disability accommodation should be reviewed. Although each case must be evaluated through an interactive process individually, denying employment opportunities to a group of people with the same type of disability – hearing loss - can lead to risk.

Here are some tips employers should follow when considering a disability accommodation request:

  • When presented with an accommodation request, have those in your organization authorized to engage in the interactive process begin it.
  • They will work with the individual's health care provider and other experts to identify possible reasonable accommodations.
  • Once accommodations are in place, meet with the employee and others to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations.
  • Determine whether additional accommodations are needed.
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