- United Parcel Service, Inc., known commonly as UPS, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it fired a diabetic employee who had requested the accommodation of occasional short breaks, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged June 30.
- The former employee, a preloader in a UPS warehouse located in Jacksonville, Florida, had brittle diabetes and wore an insulin pump with a continuous glucose monitor. To help manage his diabetes, he requested breaks of under five minutes to "check his blood sugar and eat or drink something if necessary," EEOC said. Even though the employee had been able to perform the essential job functions, the HR supervisor at the warehouse called him a "liability" and fired him, according to EEOC.
- "Over 34 million people have diabetes in the United States," said Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for EEOC's Miami district office, in a release. "It is imperative that employers provide reasonable accommodations, especially where the accommodation would pose no expense and little, if any, disruption to the workplace."
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are generally required to provide "reasonable accommodations" for employees with disabilities who request them. While the reasonableness of different requested accommodations may vary depending on the work environment and type of job, the use of short breaks between unloading trailers — the accommodation the employee in the EEOC suit requested — did not affect the essential functions of the job in question, EEOC argued.
If what the EEOC charged happened as alleged, UPS may have improperly engaged in the interactive process — a common reason employers find themselves charged with ADA suits. When an employee approaches an employer to disclose a disability and request a reasonable accommodation, the interactive process that is triggered requires the employer to work with the employee to accommodate that disability, whether through the requested accommodation or another possible solution. A blanket refusal to accommodate the disability can be used as evidence of discrimination.
Finally, if the EEOC charges are true and the hiring manager referred to the employee as a "liability" and fired him based on his disability, the employee may have an especially strong case. In May, a jury ordered a Florida Burger King franchisee to pay more than $2 million to a former employee who was terminated solely on the basis of having a trachea tube.