The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed that Atlanta-based United Parcel Service (UPS) violated the ADA by refusing to hire package-car driver applicants if they failed a hearing test.
UPS required applicants for such jobs to pass the Transportation Department’s physical, which includes a hearing test. But the company applied the test more strictly than required by the government agency, which requires the test only for drivers of vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds. Package cars weigh less.
The court ruled that UPS carried the burden of proof to show the hearing test was job-related and consistent with business necessity, which the company failed to do.
UPS didn’t prove that deaf drivers as a class pose a higher risk of accidents than other drivers. The court also found that other practical criteria—such as driver records and tests—could determine which deaf drivers, if any, present a heightened safety risk. UPS employs more than 12,000 workers in Georgia and operates more than 1,700 package cars in the state. Now, it faces the prospect of a class-action suit.
Advice: Beware job criteria that tend to screen out disabled applicants. Whenever possible, seek alternatives that would accomplish the same goal without unnecessarily barring capable workers.