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According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) guidelines, employers are banned from discriminating against employees and job applicants based on various physical disabilities. FedEx Corp., however, was recently sued for discriminating against deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers, which resulted in a $3.3 million settlement and the promise of programmatic relief to resolve the company-wide discrimination lawsuit.

Many large corporations have dealt with disability discrimination lawsuits in recent years. In the case of FedEx, the EEOC claims that the corporation denied reasonable accommodations to FedEx Ground employees who were deaf and hard-of-hearing in addition to denying deaf and hard-of-hearing applicants employment based on their disabilities.

Here’s a general breakdown of what happened with the FedEx disability policy violations:

Why FedEx Is Being Sued for Disability Discrimination

FedEx is being sued by the EEOC for violating the disability discrimination policies under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) employer guidelines. According to the ADA, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for qualified disabled employees to perform the necessary functions of their jobs safely and effectively. The EEOC claims that FedEx Ground denied certain deaf and hard-of-hearing employees such accommodations and must pay $3.3 million in compensation.

More specifically, the disabled employees worked in a Pennsylvania-based FedEx Ground unit, performing packaging and handling job duties. The EEOC indicated that these employees, and possibly dozens of other disabled FedEx employees across the country, did not receive the proper disability accommodations they were owed by their employer under ADA regulations.

In addition to workplace disability accommodation violations, FedEx Ground is also being sued for denying disabled but qualified applicants employment solely based on their disabilities, which is in direct violation of EEOC policies. According to the EEOC, 229 employees and applicants may be included in the settlement payout.

How Did FedEx Violate ADA Guidelines Regarding Disabilities?

After attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement with FedEx and a nationwide investigation following a series of discrimination charges filed against the company, the EEOC successfully filed a $3.3 million lawsuit which required FedEx to change the way it treated employees and applicants with hearing and other disabilities.

Here’s how FedEx Ground failed to accommodate its deaf and hard-of-hearing employees in its packaging and handling department:

  • Employees were not given proper disability accommodations in the workspace, including sign language interpretation (live and remote), non-audible cues on equipment and closed captioning on all videos.
  • The company also failed to follow disability-specific safety protocols for its disabled employees.
  • Many qualified applicants were denied employment by FedEx Ground on the basis of their disabilities.

By failing to comply with ADA employment regulations, FedEx incurred numerous disability discrimination complaints that eventually led to the lawsuit.

Moving Forward: What Employers Can Learn From These FedEx Legal Issues

As part of the settlement, FedEx must provide proper disability accommodations for deaf and hard-of-hearing employees and qualified employees with other disabilities. Companies like FedEx can easily avoid ADA violations by ensuring that all of their branches comply with mandatory disability policies as well as EEOC policies regarding employment eligibility.

For more information on disability accommodation in the workplace, visit the EEOC’s website.

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