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The United Parcel
Service (“UPS”) recently agreed to pay $2 million to settle the claims of
approximately 90 disabled employees.
Approximately 70 employees were parties to a lawsuit filed by the EEOC
and the remaining 20 had pending administrative Charges.
The lawsuit, which
was filed in federal court in Illinois, alleged that UPS discriminated against
disabled employees in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by
terminating employees who did not return to work after 12 months of medical
leave. The lawsuit was originally triggered
by UPS’s termination of Trudi Momsen, a UPS employee with multiple sclerosis,
who was discharged after she exhausted her medical leave.
UPS implemented a multiple-month leave policy that allowed
employees up to 12 months of leave for medical conditions. While UPS’s policy was certainly more
generous than policies of the vast majority of corporate America, the EEOC
criticized UPS for its practice of automatic termination of employees who could
not return to work at the end of the 12-month period. The EEOC challenged the practice as a refusal
to accommodate and to engage in the requisite interactive process under the
While the UPS case was not decided by the court, employers
can be certain that the EEOC will continue to pursue ADA cases with similar
issues. The EEOC’s most recent 4-year
Strategic Enforcement Plan identifies disabled employees and issues of
reasonable accommodations as a substantive area priority for 2017 through
2021. Employers should realize that
generous leave policies do not necessarily insulate them from disability claims
over a refusal to accommodate or the scrutiny of the EEOC.