Why do companies choose to deny providing a workplace support? UPS Supply Chain Solutions (UPS SCS) will pay $95,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC because it denied such a support to an employee who is deaf. UPS SCS is the world’s largest package delivery company, so the reason can’t be undue hardship. In fact, the company didn’t cite cost as a factor in the decision to deny consistent use of a sign language interpreter.
A junior clerk in the accounting department uses American Sign Language (ASL) as his primary language. He struggles to understand written English, which is common with people who are born deaf. Although aware of his impairment, UPS SCS supervisors continuously denied this employee his requested reasonable accommodation of a sign language interpreter for training, departmental staff meetings and other work-related sessions. Instead, supervisors required that he attend the meetings and counseled him about his performance without such an interpreter. Sometimes, UPS SCS provided written notes and summaries, but this did not adequately accommodate him due to his lack of proficiency in written English.
We know that the ADA prohibits discrimination in employment due to one’s disability and requires that employers provide an employee or job applicant with a reasonable accommodation that is actually effective, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
UPS SCS did not cite cost as a factor in the decision to deny consistent use of a sign language interpreter. Employers also must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities even if the accommodations are for benefits and privileges (such as staff meetings, trainings) that are not essential functions of the job.
I don’t know what their reason was for such a denial, but their decision is costly both monetarily, and operationally.
As you plan your new year, large companies may want to integrate the following actions into their business plan: 1) Train & assign an ADA Coordinator to review and revise policies with respect to reasonable accommodations; 2) Engage in the interactive process with employees who request accommodations, including face-to-face meetings to discuss potential accommodations (an extended dialogue about how to best provide an accommodation. It is during this crucial process that employers will learn the most effective method to accommodate employees with disabilities); 3) Provide prompt and thorough investigation of complaints of disability discrimination and/or retaliation; 4) Conduct live sensitivity training on how to accommodate individuals with disabilities for all supervisors and managers, with enhanced training for those in the human resources and occupational health departments; 5) Create and maintain an accommodation log to track the handling of accommodation requests; and 6) Post a notice about antidiscrimination laws.
This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.