The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported on December 22 that UPS has agreed to pay $150,000 to settle claims that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to provide accommodations for a diabetic employee and then dismissing the employee. Additionally, UPS is required by a three-year consent decree to identify a handicap through an interactive, good-faith procedure when it receives a request for reasonable accommodation.
According to the EEOC, the former worker, a pre-loader at a warehouse in Jacksonville, Florida, had brittle or unpredictable diabetes and wore an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor. According to the allegations, he requested short, fewer than five-minute breaks from loading trucks to check his blood sugar and, if needed, eat or drink something from an HR supervisor. The EEOC claimed that despite his capacity to carry out the core duties of the job, the HR supervisor called him a “liability” because of his impairment. The EEOC claims that the HR supervisor fired him after his second day of work.
UPS was sued by the EEOC for ADA violations. According to the EEOC, the agency was awarded summary judgment by a federal district court in March. According to the consent decree, UPS acknowledged that the parameters were reasonable while also refuting the accusations and agreeing to resolve the matter to prevent more legal action. UPS promised to grant the worker financial relief in addition to reinstatement. Its ADA policy must also guarantee that the HR division takes into account requests for reasonable accommodations for disabilities and that HR staff, managers, and supervisors are trained on how to appropriately handle these kinds of requests.
In a statement announcing the settlement, EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Weisberg praised UPS for working with the agency “to resolve the remaining issues” and for its “willingness to address the EEOC’s concerns.”
As previously mentioned, Weisberg suggested that employers could not be aware of the prevalence of diabetes. He stated in 2021 that since the illness affects over 34 million Americans, companies must provide appropriate adjustments, particularly when doing so will not cost money or cause significant inconvenience.
According to an EEOC guideline, diabetes is a set of disorders marked by elevated blood glucose or sugar levels that are caused by the body’s failure to generate and/or use insulin, a hormone that facilitates the entry of glucose into the body’s cells to provide them with energy. According to the guidelines, a diabetic employee should eat multiple times a day to prevent their blood sugar levels from falling too low.
The guidelines state that reasonable accommodation requests are typically granted, such as the one in the UPS case, which would have allowed a diabetic employee to take breaks for food, drink, blood sugar testing, and/or medication administration. It uses the example of a manufacturing facility where workers must put in eight-hour stints with only a one-hour lunch break. In this case, the advice proposes that the factory could accommodate a diabetic employee by allowing them to take two 15-minute breaks each day and make up the time by arriving early or working late, barring undue hardship.
The bottom line of the consent decree is this: UPS must make sure that managers, supervisors, and HR personnel are aware of how to appropriately handle a diabetic employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation, including how to evaluate the request and their part in the interactive process.
According to another EEOC guidance, the interactive approach is “an informal process to clarify what the individual needs and identify the appropriate reasonable accommodation,” according to the EEOC. The guidelines also state that if an accommodation is not given to the employee, engaging in a good-faith process may shield against responsibility. However, experts have stated that a categorical rejection to participate in the process may constitute proof of discrimination.
The UPS settlement also addresses two other issues: it mandates that UPS give managers, supervisors, and HR personnel instructions on how to handle doubts about a disabled employee’s capacity to perform their job, and it requires HR to notify staff members of the progress of their accommodation requests.