News & Insights

Ups Pays $2 Million To Settle Disability Claims

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 ADA.

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.