EEOC Sues FedEx for Disability Discrimination

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In a press release, today, the EEOC announced that it has sued shipping giant FedEx for discriminating against deaf and hearing-impaired employees.  The charges accuse FedEx of:

  • Failing to provide needed accommodations such as American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and closed-captioned training videos during the mandatory initial tour of the facilities and new-hire orientation for deaf and hard-of-hearing applicants;
  • Failing to provide such accommodations during staff, performance, and safety meetings; and
  • Refusing to provide needed equipment substitutions and modifications for deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers, such as providing scanners that vibrate instead of beep and installing flashing safety lights on moving equipment.

The EEOC’s investigation found that FedEx employs numerous deaf or hearing-impaired employees across the United States, including Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Maryland, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Oregon, Utah, and West Virginia.  The suit originated with 19 complaints, and the EEOC consolidated the complaints with a nationwide, systemic investigation of the discrimination allegations.  After negotiations failed, the EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (EEOC v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:14-cv-03081-WMN).

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), employers have an affirmative duty to explore reasonable accommodations if requested by an employee or applicant who is disabled and qualified for the job.  After passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, the focus of the ADA has been less on whether employees and applicants are disabled and more on whether the employer engaged in an appropriate interactive process to determine whether the employee or applicant could be reasonably accommodated.  

Disability discrimination rules and statutes are not easy to navigate.  If you have any questions regarding disability discrimination or any other employment related issue, please feel free to contact me.

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