Exclusion of Deaf Job Applicants Under ADA

By James Hatch

Jan. 19, 2007

Five deaf job applicants brought a class-action suit against UPS and claimed that the company had excluded them for consideration for jobs driving trucks with a gross vehicular weight of less than 10,001 pounds. The U.S. Department of Transportation requires that drivers of vehicles weighing at least 10,001 pounds pass certain hearing standards. Drivers who drive trucks less than 10,001 pounds are not subject to the regulation.

UPS argued that to prove disability discrimination, deaf workers were required to demonstrate an ability to drive safely.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit agreed that UPS violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by using qualification standards to screen out deaf individuals. The court held that UPS did not satisfy the burden of proof to show that application of a Department of Transportation hearing standard for jobs driving smaller vehicles was job-related and consistent with business necessity. Bates v. United Parcel Serv. Inc., 9th Cir. Ct. App., No. 04-17295 (10/10/06).

Impact: Employers are advised to carefully examine any broad qualification standards for particular jobs and to individually evaluate workers’ abilities to perform their jobs.

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