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Press Release 06-05-2020

Union Pacific Railroad Agrees to Pay $260,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Railroad Violated ADA by Refusing to Accommodate Employee with Brain Tumor History, Federal Agency Charged

CHICAGO – Union Pacific Railroad Company will pay $260,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination case brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Union Pacific engaged in unlawful discrimination at the Ogilvie Transportation Center in Chicago, Illinois, when it refused to allow an employee who once had a brain tumor to return to work as a custodian, a position Union Pacific contended was “safety-critical.” EEOC’s suit contended that Union Pacific failed to conduct an appropriate individualized assessment to determine whether the employee could safely perform the essential functions of the job. Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Union Pacific agreed to settle the lawsuit before filing an answer to the EEOC’s complaint. It denies the allegations.

Under a two-year consent decree, agreed to by the parties and entered by the court, Union Pacific will pay $260,000 to the former employee. Union Pacific has also agreed to train a set of its Chicago service unit employees on the ADA’s protections and, for the term of the decree, to report to EEOC all future complaints of disability discrimination and denials of requests to return to work after a medical leave of absence.

Gregory Gochanour, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago, said of the lawsuit, “We are pleased that Union Pacific was willing to work with EEOC to resolve this matter before either side had incurred the costs and burdens of a protracted litigation process. Though Union Pacific disagrees with EEOC as to what occurred in this case, it was willing to join with EEOC in making a critical assessment of how it could have done better.”

Julianne Bowman, EEOC’s district director in Chicago, added, “The EEOC appreciates that Union Pacific agreed to compensate the aggrieved individual and to improve their ADA compliance moving forward. Other employers would be wise to consider whether their own procedures for returning individuals to work are ADA-compliant.”

The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago (EEOC v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., Civil Action No. 19-cv-6021) in September 2019, after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through the EEOC’s pre-lawsuit conciliation process.

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