Deaf Worker Was Denied Sign Language Interpreter
LOS ANGELES – UPS Supply Chain Solutions (UPS SCS) will pay $95,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that UPS SCS, a business unit of the United Parcel Service, the world’s largest package delivery company, unlawfully denied a reasonable accommodation to a deaf employee.
According to the EEOC’s suit, from 2001 to 2009, Mauricio Centeno worked at the UPS SCS facility in Gardena, Calif., as a junior clerk in the accounting department. Deaf since birth, Centeno’s primary language is American Sign Language (ASL), and he struggles to understand written English. Although aware of his impairment, UPS SCS supervisors continuously denied Centeno his requested reasonable accommodation of a sign language interpreter for training, departmental staff meetings and other work-related sessions. Instead, supervisors required that he attend the meetings and counseled him about his performance without such an interpreter. According to the EEOC, UPS SCS sometimes provided written notes and summaries, but this did not adequately accommodate him due to his lack of proficiency in written English.
The EEOC filed suit in September 2006 [EEOC v. UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Case No. CV 06-06210 ABC (Ex)], arguing that UPS SCS failed to reasonably accommodate Centeno, in violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination in employment due to one’s disability and requires that employers provide an employee or job applicant with a reasonable accommodation that is actually effective, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. In this case, UPS SCS did not cite cost as a factor in the decision to deny consistent use of a sign language interpreter.
In November 2008, the EEOC appealed a decision by the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, to grant UPS SPS motion for summary judgment to dismiss the EEOC’s suit. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals not only reversed the lower court’s ruling, but also held that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities even if the accommodations are for benefits and privileges (such as staff meetings) that are not essential functions of the job.
Aside from the monetary relief, the three-year consent decree settling the suit requires UPS SCS to adhere to the following provisions for its operations in California:
“For years, Maurice Centeno sat in silence during meetings while his supervisors ignored his requests for a sign language interpreter,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office. “We commend UPS SCS for recognizing that workers with disabilities have the right to the same benefits and privileges of employment enjoyed by those without disabilities, and for working to provide effective accommodations in the future.”
Olophius E. Perry, district director for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, added, “It is critical that employers engage in the interactive process, an extended dialogue about how to best provide an accommodation. It is during this crucial process that employers will learn the most effective method to accommodate employees with disabilities.”
The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s website at www.eeoc.gov.