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You can’t ignore state disability law

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

UPS delivers across the country and in every state, so its employment policies tend to be national in scope. UPS requires all its drivers to hold U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) commercial driver’s licenses to operate trucks weighing more than 10,001 pounds, even if they regularly drive only smaller trucks. Drivers diagnosed with epilepsy can’t qualify for the national licenses.

That became a problem when UPS driver Paul Warren developed epilepsy. Following his diagnosis, Warren was on medical leave for one year. When he returned, he asked for his old driving job, but UPS refused. It placed Warren in another position with the same pay but less overtime.

Warren sued under Maine’s disabilities law, arguing UPS should have accommodated him with an exemption from the DOT licensing requirement. Maine regulations allow people with epilepsy to drive a standard UPS truck, which weighs less than 10,001 pounds.

Maine’s disabilities law requires the employer to prove an employee’s health condition is dangerous. A jury decided UPS hadn’t done that and awarded Warren back pay plus reinstatement, a verdict upheld on appeal. UPS will have to comply with Maine’s different standards. (Warren v. United Parcel Service, No. 07-2197, 1st Cir., 2008)

Advice: Make sure your disability policy complies with the rules of each state in which your organization operates. What’s perfectly legal in one may land you in hot water in another. Consulting with an expert on disability discrimination in each state can help you adapt your national policy where necessary.

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