EEOC Says Class of Disabled Employees Fired After Taking Medical Leaves of Absence
CHICAGO – In a major class lawsuit filed here in federal court, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged that Atlanta-based United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS), the world’s largest package delivery company, violated federal law by rejecting an extension of medical leave as a reasonable accommodation for its employees with disabilities.
The EEOC’s administrative investigation, conducted prior to filing the lawsuit and supervised by Chicago District Director John Rowe, found that UPS violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). According to Rowe, Trudi Momsen, an administrative assistant at UPS, took a 12-month leave of absence from work when she began experiencing symptoms of what was later diagnosed as multiple sclerosis. She returned to work for a few weeks, but soon thereafter needed additional time off after experiencing what she believed to be negative side effects of her medication. Although Momsen could have returned to work after an additional two-week leave of absence, UPS fired her for exceeding its 12-month leave policy. Following its investigation, the EEOC reached an administrative determination that UPS failed to accommodate Momsen’s disability, in violation of the ADA.
“This case should send a wake up call to Corporate America that violating the Americans With Disabilities Act will result in vigorous enforcement by the EEOC,” said Commission Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “The ADA has been the law of the land for nearly two decades now, and employers simply have no excuse for failing to abide by its provisions.”
The EEOC filed suit late yesterday in U.S. District Court in Chicago after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with UPS. The litigation, captioned EEOC v. United Parcel Service, Inc. (Civil Action No. 09-C-5291) and assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert M. Dow, Jr., seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for Momsen and a class of disabled employees whom UPS similarly refused to accommodate, as well as an order barring future discrimination and other relief.
EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John Hendrickson said, “One of the main goals of the ADA is to provide gainful employment to qualified individuals with disabilities. However, policies like this one at UPS, which set arbitrary deadlines for returning to work after medical treatment, unfairly keep disabled employees from working. Sometimes a simple conversation with the employee about what might be needed to return to work is all that is necessary to keep valued employees in their jobs.”
According to company information, Atlanta-based UPS, which describes itself at the world’s largest package delivery company, is a $49.7 billion global corporation operating in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide. The EEOC Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.