- A federal district court approved a $3.3 million FedEx Ground settlement agreement May 18 that resolves a lawsuit alleging the employer failed to accommodate workers with hearing impairments, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (EEOC v. FedEx Ground Package System, Inc., No. 2:15-cv-00256 (W.D. Pa. May 18, 2020)).
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a 2014 lawsuit that the employer discriminated against deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who applied for or worked in package handler positions. It failed to provide accommodations for job application procedures, workplace communications and meeting participation, the agency said. FedEx denied the allegations, according to the agreement.
- According to EEOC, 229 individuals may share the monetary settlement. The agreement also requires FedEx Ground to make changes to accommodate individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing.
The FedEx suit stemmed from a number of individual complaints lodged with EEOC. "We are grateful to the numerous individuals throughout the country who filed the charges that led to the EEOC's systemic investigation and ultimately this resolution in federal court," Jamie Williamson, director of the EEOC's Philadelphia district office, said in a press release; "It is very powerful when multiple employees come forward to notify the agency of the same issue."
Among other things, the agency claimed at the time that FedEx Ground failed to provide American Sign Language interpretation and closed-captioned training videos during mandatory tours and new-hire orientation.
It also failed to provide such accommodations during staff, performance and safety meetings, the commission said. And it allegedly refused to provide needed equipment substitutions and modifications for deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers, such as scanners that vibrate instead of beep and flashing safety lights on moving equipment.
Such actions could violate the ADA, the agency claimed, because the law requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and workers with disabilities if needed to perform the essential functions of a job (or if needed to apply for a job).
Employment experts suggest that HR train managers on the ADA's requirements and teach them to recognize requests for accommodation. It's important to note, however, that while the ADA generally requires that workers request modifications, an employer may need to initiate the process if it knows or should have known that an employee or applicant needs an accommodation. That situation arises when an individual's impairment is obvious — if someone uses a wheelchair or is deaf, for example.