United Parcel Service will pay $2 million to nearly 90 current and former employees to resolve a nationwide disability discrimination lawsuit filed in 2009 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The EEOC charged UPS violated federal law failing to provide employees with disabilities reasonable accommodations that would enable them to perform their job duties.

The EEOC further alleged UPS maintained an inflexible leave policy, whereby the company fired disabled employees automatically when they reached 12 months of leave, without engaging in the interactive process required by law.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

"Big companies, big dollars—but even for a smaller company, a lawsuit like this can be devastating," says CBIA HR Counsel Mark Soycher.

A one-size-fits-all benefits approach still requires hands-on management at the individual employee level.
"Cases like this should serve as a reminder to employers that regardless of the politics in Washington, obligations under laws like the ADA remain in place, and the enforcement process is vital and thriving."

According to company information, Atlanta-based UPS has over 434,000 employees and had revenues of $61 billion in 2016.

Workers with Disabilities Underutilized

In addition to providing $2 million in monetary relief, UPS also agreed to update its policies on reasonable accommodation, improve its implementation of those policies, and conduct training .

Furthermore, the company agreed to provide the EEOC periodic reports on the status of every accommodation request for the next three years to ensure the efficacy of its procedures.

"As in other areas of compliance, this case illustrates that a one-size-fits-all benefits approach—even if quite generous, as was UPS' 12 months of leave entitlement—still requires hands-on management consideration at the individual employee level for possible accommodations tailored to specific situations," says Soycher.

"Beyond the monetary settlement, which equates to about $22,000 per employee, it appears that the reporting, policies, and manager training UPS must implement may expand employment opportunities for workers with disabilities, a significantly underutilized segment of potential workers.

"This can be a valuable strategy for all employers to consider, particularly when we hear from so many companies, large and small, about difficulties finding qualified help."