HR Management & Compliance

Three Companies, Three Disability-Related Charges from the EEOC

What do a shipping company, a manufacturer, and an oil and gas company have in common? They were all found to have violated disability discrimination policies and were held accountable by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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UPS Delivers an ADA Violation, to Themselves

On July 27, 2018, a federal judge in Kansas ruled that UPS Ground Freight violated federal law by having a policy, contained in its current union contract with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, of paying its disabled drivers only 90% of what nondisabled drivers earn when they temporarily move to nondriving jobs.

In August 2017, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against UPS to obtain relief for Thomas Diebold. He had worked for UPS from 2006 to 2015 as a driver at its service center in Kansas City. After suffering a minor stroke in 2013, he sought nondriving work, as allowed by UPS when drivers are temporarily unable to drive, whether for medical or nonmedical reasons, such as convictions for driving while intoxicated. Under UPS’s policy, later formalized in a collective bargaining agreement with the union, drivers with disabilities like Diebold’s were assigned to nondriving work for medical reasons and were paid 10% less than drivers who were reassigned for nonmedical reasons.

Chief Judge Julie A. Robinson agreed with the EEOC and ruled that UPS’s policy violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it limits, segregates, or classifies drivers based on their disabilities. UPS also violated the law by participating in a contractual relationship with the union that discriminated against medically disabled UPS drivers.

In addition to declaring that UPS’s policy and the union contract violated the law, the court issued an order permanently preventing the company from discriminating on the basis of disability and prohibiting it and the union from negotiating and ratifying terms in the next collective bargaining agreement that could discriminate on the basis of an employee’s disability. EEOC v. UPS Ground Freight, Inc. (DC KS, Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-02453).

Manufacturer Pays $135,000 to EEOC for Firing Three Brothers with the Same Blood Disorder

On July 26, Texas manufacturing company Signature Industrial Services, LLC, agreed to pay $135,000 and provide other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC.

According to the lawsuit, Signature violated federal law by firing three laborers—who are brothers—because of a blood disorder that runs in their family.

Drew and Anthony West had been working at the Exxon/Mobile Refinery in Beaumont when Signature took over the contract to perform mechanical services at the plant. A third brother, Raymond, began working there in January 2013. All three brothers have hemophilia A, a blood disorder that doesn’t impede their ability to perform their jobs but requires expensive medicine for treatment should they sustain an on-the-job scrape or injury that causes bleeding.

According to the EEOC, Signature’s top management instructed lower-level managers to fire the three brothers once it learned how its insurance costs could spike by having them on the payroll. Because the brothers had an excellent work history, the project manager initially refused to fire them. Subsequently, the brothers’ direct supervisor was ordered to fire them.

On July 3, 2013, the three brothers were advised that they were being laid off. Although Signature claimed the layoffs were due to a reduction in force, no workers other than the West brothers were laid off on that date. EEOC v. Signature Industrial Services, Inc. (DC TX, Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-70).

Halliburton to Pay $280,000 for Breach of Settlement Agreement

On July 11, Halliburton Energy Services, Inc., an oil and gas exploration services company headquartered in Houston, Texas, agreed to pay $280,000 to settle a lawsuit for breach of a mediation agreement with the EEOC.

According to the lawsuit, Halliburton entered into a mediation settlement agreement with the EEOC and a rejected job applicant on February 4, 2014. The settlement resolved a disability discrimination charge the agency filed against the company.

In the settlement agreement, Halliburton promised to hire the applicant, subject to successful employment screening. Despite the applicant’s successfully passing the screening, however, the company refused to hire him for any position. The EEOC maintained that the company’s actions constituted a breach of the settlement agreement.

In addition to the $280,000 in monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit requires Halliburton to provide the applicant with a positive employment reference signed and printed on the company’s letterhead. EEOC v. Halliburton Energy Services, Inc. & Boots and Coots, LLC (DC MS, Civil Action No. 3:16-cv-00233-CWR-FKB).

Kevin McCormick is chair of the Labor and Employment Section with the Baltimore law firm of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston, L.L.P. and editor of Maryland Employment Law Letter.  He may be contacted at kmccormick@wtplaw.com.