CHICAGO — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has brokered a $2 million settlement with UPS stemming from a 2009 suit in which the shipping giant was accused of regularly discriminating against workers with disabilities.
Nearly 90 current and former workers were a part of the nationwide action, with the $2 million payout also accounting for related administrative court charges.
The EEOC accused UPS of violating federal statutes requiring businesses to provide employees with disabilities reasonable accommodations that would allow them to perform their job duties.
UPS was also accused of maintaining an inflexible leave policy, whereby the company systematically terminated disabled employees whenever they reached maximum leave for the year, allegedly without engaging in the interactive process required by law.
“EEOC continues to pursue enforcement strategy with respect to maximum leave,” John Alan Doran, a labor attorney at Sherman & Howard, told the Cook County Record. “Employers who maintain maximum policy do so at their own risk. I think that is a policy that’s dead wrong.”
As part of the settlement, UPS also agreed to update its policies on reasonable accommodation, improve its implementation of those policies and train those who administer the company's disability accommodation processes, The company will be required to provide the EEOC with periodic updates of its progress over the next 36 months.
“I think you have to remember how large UPS is, which is why the settlement was so high,” Doran said. “Smaller companies will not have to pay as much. But either way, litigation is costly... It’s likely the company made a business decision to settle for the sake of litigation peace.”
Doran said he doesn’t see a truckload of similar suits arriving in the near future.
“I don’t think a lot of employees are sitting around observing this,” he said. "My advice to employers would be to eliminate language about absences other than that it will be determined on an individual basis.”