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EEOC need not identify disabled employees in bias claims: Court

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A federal agency can pursue employee discrimination claims for persons whose identities may not be known at the outset of a case, a federal district court said, reversing its previous ruling.

A federal judge on Friday denied a motion by United Parcel Service Inc. to dismiss a 2009 lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that UPS violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the EEOC said in a Tuesday statement.

In the suit, the EEOC claimed that UPS violated the ADA by allowing disabled employees only 12-month leaves of absence and did not provide them with reasonable accommodations.

Instead, the EEOC claimed, UPS fired employees who exceeded those parameters, according to the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, in Chicago.

The court granted UPS' motion to dismiss the case after the Atlanta-based package delivery company argued in part that the EEOC did not provide adequate information about the unidentified employees for which it was seeking relief, according to court documents.

After the EEOC filed two amended complaints, both of which the court dismissed in favor of UPS, it sought to appeal the court's ruling.

Instead of addressing the EEOC's request for an appeal, the court reconsidered its previous decisions and granted the EEOC's motion to file its second amended complaint.

In his opinion, Judge Robert M. Dow said that the EEOC in its most recent complaint satisfies legal requirements by offering “detailed factual allegations as to how the policy affected two employees … and alleges that the same policy was applied across the board to other employees.”

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“The unique role of the EEOC is such that courts generally have allowed complaints with ‘class’ allegations comparable to those asserted here to move forward,” and that the law “does not require plaintiffs, including EEOC, to plead detailed factual allegations supporting the individual claims of every potential member of a class,” the judge wrote.

“Judge Dow’s decision probably marks the end of an already faltering trend in the defense of employment discrimination cases,” John Hendrickson, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago, said in the statement.

“Based on a couple of questionable decisions, some defense attorneys have been arguing that the EEOC cannot seek relief for victims of bias in class cases unless each of those victims has previously been identified during the EEOC administrative process and before a lawsuit was filed,” he said. “Those days are about over.”

UPS is directed to respond to the EEOC’s second amended complaint, according to court documents.

“UPS is surprised at the judge's change from his consistent prior decisions,” a UPS spokeswoman said in an email to Business Insurance. “We intend to challenge the ruling from last week."