FedEx Ground Sued by EEOC, NAD for ADA Violation
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against FedEx Ground Package System, INC. (FedEx Ground) on October 10, 2014. The lawsuit charges FedEx Ground with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by discriminating for many years against a large number of deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and applicants.
“FedEx Ground failed to engage in an interactive process with deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and applicants to address their needs and to provide them with reasonable accommodations.
That’s why we filed this lawsuit — to remedy alleged pervasive violations of the ADA on a national level. ”
Spencer H. Lewis, Jr
EEOC Philadelphia District Director
The lawsuit was filed in response to 19 separate charges filed throughout the country, all citing discrimination against deaf and hard-of-hearing workers by FedEx Ground. The EEOC conducted a nationwide investigation and consolidated these charges into one lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the District of Maryland.
Note that there are currently deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers at FedEx Ground locations throughout the country, including facilities in Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, Maryland, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Texas, Oregon, Utah, and West Virginia.
FedEx Ground Fails to Provide ASL and Closed Captioning for Workers
According to their job descriptions, package handlers at FedEx Ground “physically load and unload packages from delivery vehicles, place and reposition packages in FedEx Ground’s conveyor systems, and scan, sort and route packages.”
The EEOC charges find FedEx Ground in violation of the ADA, which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of disability and further requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with a disability.
“FedEx Ground should have provided effective accommodations to enable people with hearing difficulties to obtain workplace information that is disseminated in meetings and in training sessions.”
Debra M. Lawrence
EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney
Despite their longstanding knowledge of employing a significant number of deaf and hard-of-hearing workers, FedEx Ground blatantly violated the ADA by failing to provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters or closed captioned training videos in the following situations:
- Mandatory initial tour of the facilities
- New-hire orientation for applicants
- Staff meetings
- Performance meetings
- Safety meetings
FedEx Ground also “refused” to provide necessary modifications to sound-sensitive equipment (such as moving equipment and scanners that beep) to deaf and hard-of-hearing employees. Vibrating scanners and flashing lights on moving equipment are simple modifications that would make such equipment safe and accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
Reasonable Accommodations vs. Undue Burden
The main exemption for employers not to provide reasonable accommodation for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees is if it causes “undue burden” on the company.
FedEx Ground employed over 65,000 people and had a revenue of $11.6 billion in the fiscal year 2014, according to their website.
With revenue in the billions, it is unlikely that FedEx Ground can prove the undue hardship of providing ASL, closed captioning, and equipment alternatives for their employees.
As Maria Luisa Morocco, EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney, stated:The law is clear: Employers have to provide reasonable accommodations to ensure that deaf and hard-of-hearing job applicants and employees are afforded equal employment opportunities — which includes the full benefits and privileges of employment, such as being informed of performance expectations and safety requirements.
The NAD Steps In
In July, 2015, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) joined the lawsuit in support of the EEOC. Their counsel, Matthew Dietz of the Disability Independence Group and Christine Elzer of Samuel J. Cordes & Associates, intervened to pressure FedEx Ground to provide reasonable accommodations for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees.
FedEx Ground Motion to Dismiss: Denied
FedEx Ground filed a motion to dismiss the case back in June, 2015. They claimed it was not fair to have to litigate against “hundreds of unnamed aggrieved individuals.” They also moved for a motion to strike the EEOC’s “pattern or practice” complaints against the company.
In January, 2016, a federal judge denied the motion to dismiss and the motion to strike.
Judge Mark R. Hornak wrote:FedEx Ground’s alleged failure to accommodate deaf and hard-of-hearing employees and applicants is the heart of the case. The EEOC has given FedEx Ground a list of some 168 aggrieved individuals, FedEx Ground is certainly on notice of the violations of federal law the EEOC alleges, and the EEOC had pled sufficient facts to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
The case remains in litigation.
This post was originally published on November 13, 2014 by Lily Bond and has since been updated.More: accessibility law, accessibility lawsuit, ADA, ADA lawsuit, Americans with Disabilities Act, ASL, captioning, closed captioning, closed captions, deaf and hard-of-hearing, disability discrimination, Disability Law, discrimination lawsuit, EEOC, EEOC v FedEx Ground, FedEx, FedEx Ground, lawsuit, NAD, sign language, video accessibility, video captioning