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July 22, 2003

UPS and deaf workers reach settlement

From: Daily Democrat, CA - Jul 22, 2003

OAKLAND (AP) - A nationwide class-action lawsuit claiming that United Parcel Service discriminated against more than 900 current and former hearing-impaired employees has been settled, the employees said Monday, ending a trial that began in April.

"I'm hopeful that deaf employees will not be held back anymore," Babaranti Oloyede, one of the plaintiffs, said through an interpreter.

Oloyede, who works in UPS' Oakland office, has been working for the nation's fourth-largest private employer for 12 years and claims the company discriminated against him and other hearing-impaired employees.

The hearing-impaired plaintiffs testified during the trial that they were routinely excluded from workplace information, denied opportunities for promotion and exposed to unsafe conditions due to lack of accommodation by UPS.

"I've been working there for 12 years now and for all those years UPS didn't provide interpreters, a telephone for emergency news, closed captioning, training videotapes or emergency signals like flashing lights," said Oloyede, 45. "We had many meetings, like a meeting about anthrax, and I didn't have an interpreter, so I didn't know what was going on."

The settlement obligates UPS to make changes to ensure that deaf employees and job applicants have full access to basic workplace safety, to workplace information, and to equal opportunities for promotion.

The company also will pay $5.8 million in damages.

Atlanta-based UPS did not immediately return calls for comment Monday.

The proposed settlement requires court approval after notice is distributed throughout the country and a fairness hearing is held. The parties hope that final approval will occur by the end of the year.

The settlement resolves all issues in the case except for a policy UPS continues to maintain precluding deaf people from any driving positions within the company. Other companies, such as the U.S. Postal Service, allow deaf employees who have demonstrated safe driving skills to drive delivery vehicles under 10,000 pounds. That issue will be resolved in court.

© 2003 Daily Democrat