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UPS Deaf Driver Ban Ruled Discrimination

November 9, 2004

UPS violates anti-discrimination laws by barring the deaf and hearing-impaired from driving parcel delivery trucks, a federal judge ruled on Oct. 21, according to the Associated Press. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said the Atlanta-based company's practices breach the Americans with Disabilities Act, and ordered the service to change its policies within 30 days. In a class-action case here representing as many as 1,000 would-be drivers, Henderson said those with poor hearing should "be given the same opportunities that a hearing applicant would be given to show that they can perform the job of package-car driver safely and effectively." The company said it was considering appealing. "For us, the bottom line: It's a public safety issue," UPS spokeswoman Peggy Gardner said. "It's not a discrimination issue. I can't emphasize that enough." Oakland-based Disability Rights Advocates represented the current and former employees who were passed over for the driving positions, and others who acquiesced to what the right's group called UPS's "deaf-need-not-apply" policy. The dispute centered on UPS's custom of denying hearing-impaired workers jobs operating delivery trucks weighing under 10,000 pounds. Federal rules demand that trucks exceeding 10,000 pounds be staffed by those meeting certain vision and hearing requirements, and demands those drivers become certified. But the government leaves it up to companies to decide which drivers are qualified to operate lighter vehicles. The U.S. Postal Service and Federal Express allow some deaf drivers to operate delivery vehicles under 10,000 pounds. Last year, under a $10 million settlement in the same case, UPS agreed to track promotions and ensure that hearing-impaired employees and job applicants have access to certified interpreters. The company also agreed to provide text telephones and vibrating pagers to alert poor-hearing employees to emergency evacuations. The settlement resolved all issues in the five-year-old case except the driver dispute.
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