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UPS deaf driver policy violates ADA, court affirms


SAN FRANCISCO--The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in a class action case that United Parcel Service Inc.'s safety policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by prohibiting deaf employees from driving delivery vans.

UPS said it is evaluating a potential appeal of Tuesday's ruling and that its safety policy is aimed at protecting the public and its employees. The appeals court, however, also affirmed a trial court's injunction against UPS' practice and denied the company's motion to decertify the class filing the lawsuit.

Atlanta-based UPS said it follows safety guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Transportation. But court records show that the DOT hearing guidelines apply to vehicles that are larger than those in question.

The appeals court in Eric Bates vs. United Parcel Service Inc. found that employees who challenge an employer's "safety-based qualification standard" do not need to establish that they generally can perform the essential functions of the job safely. But they must show they are qualified and can satisfy safety prerequisites that are unrelated to the challenged qualification standard at issue. Once they do that, the court found, and show that the qualification standard at issue screens out individuals or groups with disabilities, then the burden shifts to the defendant to establish that the challenged qualification is job-related and consistent with a business necessity.

The appeals court remanded the case to the trial court to settle issues such as compensation.