Recently, UPS settled a class action suit filed in 2009 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") for $1,718,500.00.  The EEOC’s lawsuit claimed that UPS’ policy of only granting employees up to 12 months of medical leave regardless of the circumstances violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). According to the EEOC’s complaint, UPS’ adherence to its inflexible 12-month leave policy resulted in the company not providing reasonable accommodations to employees and automatically terminating their employment after the 12-month leave had expired.

The EEOC argued that this policy was unlawful because the interactive process that employers are required to engage in with employees requesting accommodation is supposed to be tailored to each individual case, and what is reasonable is determined on a case-by-case basis. Thus, a strict “cap” on leave meant that UPS was not engaging in a good faith interactive process to determine whether or not some amount of additional leave would have enabled employees to go back to work for the company with or without minor restrictions that could have been accommodated. 

In addition to the settlement payout, UPS has also agreed to a number of injunctive terms which control how it must handle accommodation issues moving forward. Specifically, by the terms of the settlement, UPS is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of disability against nonunion workers on medical leave, including those on disability who have asked for an accommodation. UPS also agreed that it may not retaliate against any employee who “has opposed any unlawful practice under the ADA, requested a reasonable accommodation, or filed a discrimination charge under the statute.”   While these terms simply identify conduct that would have been unlawful in any event, their inclusion makes it easier for the EEOC to pursue relief on behalf of affected employees in the future.

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