Earlier this fall, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against FedEx, alleging it had discriminated against a large number of deaf and hard-of-hearing job applicants and package handlers over a period of years. Discrimination against employees or potential employees because of a disability is illegal under federal law.

According to the EEOC, the company has been aware for a long period of time that it gets applications from and has employed a large number of deaf people and hard-of-hearing people. It alleges that FedEx has marginalized the workers, as well as hindered their job performances by failing to provide them with needed and reasonable accommodations, such as sign language interpretation, as well as special equipment. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employees are required to provide disabled applicants and employees with reasonable accommodations, unless the employer can show that doing so would be an undue hardship.

The EEOC has received 19 complaints from deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals against FedEx throughout the country, which the EEOC consolidated and investigated. During its investigation, the EEOC discovered that during orientations for new hires, and during mandatory initial tours of its facilities, FedEx failed to provide sign language interpretation or closed-captioned training videos. Sign language interpreters were also not provided at staff and safety meetings. The company also refused to modify or substitute any of its equipment – for example, the company refused to provide scanners that vibrate instead of beep.

The EEOC says it attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement, but according to FedEx Ground, the EEOC was unwilling to try to resolve the case through any settlement discussions. Therefore, the EEOC sued FedEx in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland. Under the current administration, one of the EEOC’s biggest priorities is eliminating barriers in recruiting or hiring, including for disabled workers.

Disability discrimination occurs when an employer treats a disabled individual, either an applicant or an employee, unfavorably because of the disability. The law requires that if an employee or potential employee has a disability, the employer provide reasonable accommodation to the employee, unless doing so would cause a significant difficulty or expense for the employer.

For example, it may be a reasonable accommodation for a large employer such as FedEx to close caption its training videos, or to provide an interpreter for large staff meetings. It may be a reasonable accommodation for FedEx to change its scanners to the type that vibrates instead of beeps. However, it may not be a reasonable accommodation to require FedEx to hire a full-time sign language interpreter to accompany each deaf employee everywhere for his or her entire shift. Usually, what is considered reasonable accommodation will depend a great deal on the facts involved.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of your disability, you should call an employment discrimination attorney. An employment attorney can help you evaluate whether or not you actually were illegally discriminated against in the workplace on the basis of your disability.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that no one should be discriminated against at work on the basis of a disability. If you have been discriminated against in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay area because of your disability, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland disability discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She will help you evaluate your case to determine if you have a good potential legal action against your employer. If so, you may be entitled to compensation for your lost wages, lost benefits, emotional trauma, and more. Call her today to schedule your free consultation.

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