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FedEx Sued for Alleged Deaf-Employee Discrimination

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By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on October 14, 2014 1:26 PM

Last week the Kansas Supreme Court ruled against shipping company FedEx in their ongoing legal battle with thousands of drivers who claim they were unfairly classified as contract workers.

Now, the company is facing another employment-related lawsuit, this time regarding allegations the company discriminated against deaf and hard-of-hearing employees and job applicants. The suit was announced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Friday.

What are the EEOC's allegations, and what do employers need to know about accommodating disabled employees?

EEOC Lawsuit

In its discrimination lawsuit filed late last month in Maryland District Court, the EEOC alleges that FedEx failed to provide necessary accommodations to employees and applicants with hearing disabilities. These accommodations included sign language interpreters or closed-captioned videos during mandatory orientations for new workers and safety meetings.

The suit also accuses FedEx of failing to provide modified or substitute equipment for hard-of-hearing package handlers, such as scanning machines that vibrate instead of making an audible beep and flashing lights on moving machinery. The suit is the result of 19 separate discrimination complaints filed with the EEOC which were consolidated into the lawsuit.

Accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act

The EEOC's lawsuit was brought under The Americans with Disabilities Act, the federal law prohibiting discrimination in employment and in other public and commercial settings.

Under the ADA, an employer must provide reasonable accommodations for an employee with a disability such as hearing impairment unless doing so would be an undue hardship the employer. These accommodations may include modifying work facilities or equipment to make them safe or accessible for disabled workers and modifying training guides or employment policies.

Whether an accommodation would be an undue hardship on a business is generally decided by weighing a number of factors including the cost of the accommodation, the number of workers employed by the business or facility, the impact of the accommodation on the business, and the overall size of the business.

According to the EEOC press release, FedEx Ground had $11.6 billion in revenue last year and employs more than 65,000 people.

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