Court upholds injunction allowing deaf UPS drivers
By Julia Cheever, Bay City News Service
October 10, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court in San Francisco
today upheld a lower court injunction that said United Parcel
Service Inc. can't automatically bar deaf drivers from driving
delivery vans that weigh 10,000 pounds or less.
The injunction was issued by U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson
in 2004 in a lawsuit filed in 1999 by deaf and hard-of-hearing
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Henderson did not
err "in finding that UPS failed to show that deaf drivers
pose a greater risk than other drivers hired by the company."
The injunction requires Atlanta-based UPS to make an individual
assessment of a deaf driver's ability to drive safely and to offer
reasonable accommodations if appropriate.
The decision applies only to the company's lighter-weight vehicles.
The deaf drivers did not challenge U.S. Department of Transportation
regulations that bar drivers who do not pass a hearing test from
driving larger vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds.
UPS had sought to use that test - which requires a person to
hear a forced whisper from five feet away - for drivers of all
sizes of vehicles.
Attorney Larry Paradis of Disability Rights Advocates said, "We
are elated and vindicated."
Paradis said, "The ruling sends a clear message not only
to UPS, but to all employers, that the law will not permit across-the-board
tests that screen out employees with disabilities."
The attorney said the case now goes back to U.S. district court
for individual mini-trials on damages for several hundred individuals
who alleged they were harmed by the company's policy.
A spokeswoman for UPS was not immediately available for comment.
In an earlier part of the case, UPS and the drivers reached a
settlement in 2003 on two other claims related to accommodations
and promotions for deaf people.
The company agreed in that settlement to improve communications
systems, working conditions, promotion opportunities and workplace
safety for deaf employees. It agreed to pay the workers $5.8 million
in damages and to provide $4 million in attorney's fees.
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