Consent Decree Requires Accommodations for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Package Handlers

PHILADELPHIA – FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. will pay $3.3 million and provide programmatic relief to resolve a companywide disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

The EEOC charged that FedEx Ground denied deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers reasonable accommodations and that it discriminated against deaf and hard-of-hearing applicants to the package handler position. Package handlers are responsible for loading, unloading, scanning and routing packages at the company’s distribution facilities.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must make reasonable accom­­modations to the known limitations of qualified individuals with disabilities to enable them to perform the essential functions of their jobs and to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment.

The EEOC litigated the case, Civil Action No. 15-cv-00256, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. Prior to filing suit, the EEOC attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency had conducted a nationwide systemic investigation after numerous deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers filed ADA discrimination charges with EEOC offices throughout the country.

The two-year consent decree settling the suit identifies 229 individuals who may receive payment as part of the settlement. It also requires FedEx Ground to provide deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers with access to live and video remote American Sign Language interpreting, captioned videos, and scanning equipment with non-audible cues such as vibration.

Pursuant to the decree, FedEx Ground will also take steps to protect the safety of deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers. Going forward, the company will ensure that all tuggers, forklifts and similar motorized equipment have visual warning lights, and it will provide personal notification devices to alert deaf package handlers of an emergency. FedEx Ground will also train managers and human resources representatives on ADA compliance and create written resources to assist them in identifying and providing accommodations for deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers. A FedEx Ground vice president will oversee the company’s implementation of the consent decree and reporting to the EEOC.

Maria Luisa Morocco, a supervisory trial attorney in the EEOC’s Washington, D.C. Field Office, and Thomas D. Rethage, a senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, were the lead EEOC attorneys on the case, under the supervision of Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence.

“We are pleased that FedEx Ground was willing to work with the EEOC to achieve this resolu­tion,” said Morocco. Rethage added, “The consent decree promotes effective and consistent accommodations for deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers, including for safety, equipment and communication of job-related information.”

Jamie Williamson, director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, said, “We are grateful to the numerous individuals throughout the country who filed the charges that led to the EEOC’s systemic investigation and ultimately this resolution in federal court. It is very powerful when multiple employees come forward to notify the agency of the same issue.”

The EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C., and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employ­ment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.