The world’s delivery giant, United Parcel Service, has been receiving some unwanted packages these days from the federal government: lawsuits.
Last weekl, in what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is calling a “major class lawsuit,” UPS was sued in federal court in Chicago for allegedly denying sufficient medical leave to disabled employees. The Thursday suit claims UPS sets arbitrary deadlines for returning to work after medical treatment — in one case firing an employee who would have exceeded its 12-month leave policy by mere weeks — in violation of federal law.
Just two months ago, UPS settled a religious discrimination lawsuit with the EEOC in Tennessee, in which the company was accused of requiring a 19-year driver to work past sundown on his Sabbath, which violated his beliefs as a member of the United Church of God. UPS denied that it engaged in discrimination, but agreed to pay $23,500 in damages to the employee.
And in January, a federal jury in New Jersey ordered UPS to pay $10,000 to a man who was denied a job because his Rastafarian religious beliefs forbid him from shaving his beard.
UPS states that it has zero tolerance for any form of discrimination and that it has effective policies in place addressing such issues. In the most recent case in Chicago, a UPS spokeswoman said she was baffled by the EEOC’s allegations.
“UPS is at a loss to understand the EEOC position here. The EEOC is attacking one of the more generous and flexible leave policies in corporate America,” said spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg.
Rosenberg also defended the company’s commitment to tolerating no discrimination in the workplace. “We have very specific policies against discrimination, whether it be related to gender, whether it be racial, ethnic, or disability or religion,” Rosenberg said.
In the Chicago lawsuit, the EEOC alleges that an administrative investigation revealed that UPS violated the Americans With Disabilities Act when it fired an employee for exceeding its 12-month leave policy.
According to the EEOC, Trudi Momsen, an administrative assistant, took a 12-month leave of absence for problems associated with multiple sclerosis. She returned to work for a few weeks, but needed more time off because of the side effects of her medication. That’s when UPS fired her.
The EEOC alleges that Momsen only needed a few more weeks off, but that UPS refused to accommodate her. “They just have a policy that 12 months is it. No matter what,” said EEOC attorney Diane Smason, who is handling the case. “And they don’t try to accommodate people who might need more time [to recover].”
According to Smason, the EEOC in investigating Momsen’s complaint learned about UPS’s 12-month leave policy, which affects roughly 350,000 workers nationwide. She said the policy requires that workers who use all 12 months have to work at least 30 days before requesting more leave.
“We expect that we will find other people that this happened to,” Samson said.
UPS officials deny that the company’s leave policy is as rigid as the EEOC claims. “Exceptions may be granted when employees seek accommodation under the ADA,” Rosenberg said. “And we have examples of employees that have been extended [leave] beyond 12 months.”
The EEOC says it filed suit on Thursday after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with UPS.
If you or a family member has been subjected to wrongful termination or employment discrimination, then please contact the Fort Worth Texas Employment Discrimination Attorney Dr. Shezad Malik. For a no obligation, free case analysis, please call 817-255-4001 or Contact Me Online.