UPS' deaf driver ban ruled discriminatory

| 12/6/2001

United Parcel Service lost another disability-bias ruling last week when a California federal appeals court ruled the shipper cannot bar the deaf from driving its smaller trucks unless the company can show they are less safe than other drivers.

U.S. Department of Transportation regulations require drivers of commercial vehicles above 10,000 pounds to pass a hearing test. But the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled UPS cannot use the regulations to ban all deaf drivers.

Judge Martha Berzon ruled that an employer may not enforce government safety standards "beyond their intended scope, to drivers and vehicles that [DOT] has expressly chosen not to regulate." She said the company must instead show that substantially all deaf drivers pose a heightened risk of accidents or that it would be too difficult to distinguish the safe from the unsafe.

The court reinstated a lawsuit by a UPS employee in Arizona who was prohibited from applying for a driver's job because of a severe hearing impairment.

Another federal judge in San Francisco ruled last December that UPS violated federal disability law by refusing to consider drivers who are legally blind in one eye. The company has appealed.