UPS agreed to pay $2 million to resolve a long-running nationwide dispute with former and current employees who claimed the company's inflexible leave policy unfairly positioned disabled workers, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Tuesday.
Nearly 90 current and former employees of the Atlanta-based shipping company will receive the settlement following a lawsuit filed by the EEOC in 2009 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The EEOC charged that UPS violated federal law when it fired disabled employees automatically when they reached 12 months of leave.
UPS has more than 434,000 employees and had revenues of $61 billion in 2016. The agency said the company’s conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In additional to the $2 million settlement, UPS has agreed to update its policies on accommodating employees with disabilities, improve its implementation of those policies and train those who administer the disability accommodation processes.
The company, according to the terms of a consent decree, will provide the EEOC reports on accommodation requests for the next three years.
“The ADA requires companies to make a real effort to work individually with their employees with disabilities to provide them with the necessary and reasonable accommodations that will allow them to do their jobs,” said Greg Gochanour, regional attorney of the EEOC's Chicago district office, in a statement. “As a result of this lawsuit, UPS now has practices in place to better ensure that this happens.”
A lawyer for UPS, Gary Clark of Quarles & Brady in Chicago, was not immediately reached for comment.
According to the EEOC administrative investigation, which was conducted before the lawsuit was filed, Trudi Momsen, an administrative assistant with UPS, took a 12-month leave of absence from work when she experienced multiple sclerosis symptoms.
She returned to work for a few weeks, but then required more time off because of negative side effects from her medication.
She could have returned to work after the additional two-week leave, but UPS fired her for exceeding its 12-month leave policy.
The investigation found this action in violation of the ADA. Julianne Bowman, the EEOC’s Chicago district director, said that having a multiple-month leave policy alone does not guarantee compliance with the ADA.
She said such policies must also include the flexibility to work with employees with disabilities who may simply require a reasonable accommodation to return to work. “UPS has now made changes which will allow more people to keep their jobs,” Bowman said.
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