UPS to Pay $1.7M to Resolve EEOC’s ‘Maximum Leave’ Lawsuit

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By Patrick Dorrian

United Parcel Service Inc. reached a $1.7 million agreement with the EEOC to settle a nationwide lawsuit challenging the delivery company’s policy of discharging workers who can’t return from medical leave after 12 months.

More than 70 workers allegedly harmed by UPS’s “inflexible 12-month leave policy” will share in the settlement, according to the proposed consent decree filed July 28 ( EEOC v. United Parcel Serv., Inc. , N.D. Ill., No. 1:09-cv-05291, proposed consent decree 7/28/17 ).

The company also agreed to certify to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that its workplace policies prohibiting disability discrimination include the requirement that human resources personnel seek legal counsel before firing a worker who has reached the end of a medical leave of absence. The agreement, which would apply to all UPS facilities in the U.S. and run for three years, also includes notice-posting, training, record-keeping, reporting, and other requirements.

The decree still needs approval by Judge Sara L. Ellis of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

“UPS and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have agreed to a settlement,” a company spokeswoman told Bloomberg BNA in an Aug. 1 email. “It would be premature to further respond before the judge signs the Consent Decree.”

The EEOC Aug. 1 also declined to comment on the proposed agreement.

Leave as Accommodation

The EEOC alleged in its 2009 lawsuit that UPS’s maximum leave policy, in addition to providing a basis for the company to unlawfully fire disabled workers, also acted as an illegal employment qualification standard that screened out or tended to screen out workers with disabilities.

Ellis in February 2014 ruled that the EEOC could go forward with its claims. She rejected UPS’s argument that its 12-month leave maximum was a permissible attendance policy under the ADA because regular attendance is an essential job function for its workers.

The settlement is a win for the agency in its crackdown against employer maximum-leave policies and its long-held view that leave can be a required job accommodation under the ADA. The EEOC addressed its position in a May 2016 resource document.

EEOC attorneys in Chicago represented the commission. Attorneys with Greenberg Traurig LLP, Alston & Bird LLP, Quarles & Brady LLP, and Wilson Turner Kosmo LLP represented UPS.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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