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Image of a UPS Driver
UPS Driver; Image by Mark Lennihan, https://www.ap.org/en-us/

To settle a disability discrimination lawsuit, UPS has “agreed to pay a total of $2 million to nearly 90 current and former employees” across the country. The lawsuit was first filed on behalf of the employees by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) back in 2009, and alleged UPS had “violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it failed to provide employees with reasonable accommodations and maintained an ‘inflexible’ leave policy that automatically fired employees when they reached 12 months of leave, without an interactive process.”

But what alerted the EEOC to the discriminatory practices and inadequate leave policy? Well, the EEOC became aware of the issue after Trudi Momsen, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, filed charges against UPS when she was “fired in March 2007 after 17 years with the company.

Image conveying disability discrimination
Disability Discrimination; Image Courtesy of Pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/

During her time at UPS, Momsen “worked as an administrative assistant in UPS’ payroll department.” Her problems with UPS began when she had to take a “leave of absence for 12 months for reasons related to her disability.” Upon returning to work in February of 2007, she had to use a cane to walk. When she requested accommodations “such as the use of a hand cart” and “additional time off for more therapeutic treatment,” UPS turned her down.

When Momsen decided to file the complaint against UPS, she drew attention to a major problem here in America. That problem is that current leave policies don’t fully accommodate disabled employees that require long-term care, like Momsen. This is perhaps the main reason why the EEOC filed their lawsuit against UPS in the first place. According to Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s Chicago District director:

“Having a multiple-month leave policy alone does not guarantee compliance with the ADA. Such a policy must also include the flexibility to work with employees with disabilities who may simply require a reasonable accommodation to return to work.”

As the UPS policy currently stands, it “allows employees with a documented medical basis to take up to 12 months of leave, with most receiving disability or workers’ compensation benefits.” However, representatives of the EEOC argued that such a limit only results in screening out disabled employees. UPS pushed back arguing that “regular attendance is an essential job function.”

Despite its arguments against the accusations, UPS eventually decided to settle. Shortly after the settlement announcement, the company issued a statement saying:

“UPS has a robust ADA accommodation in place, along with one of the more generous and flexible leave policies in corporate America. The company has an ADA accommodation process to assist employees in returning to work.”

Additionally, as part of the agreement, UPS will “update its policies on reasonable accommodation, improve its implementation of those policies, conduct training and provide the EEOC periodic reports on the status of every accommodation request for the next three years,” according to the EEOC.

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