News: May 2003
SAN FRANCISCO, April 8 — Nine hundred deaf workers are claiming that the United Postal Service (U.P.S.) does not provide adequate accommodations and does not promote deaf employees.
Advocates are hopeful that this class action suit, the largest involving deaf plaintiffs, will set a precedent that improves the integration and promotional opportunities for deaf workers nationwide.
Lawyers plan to provide evidence that U.P.S. does not consistently provide interpreters for deaf workers during safety and other meetings. They also claim that the company has not promoted a deaf employee to management in over 5 years.
U.P.S. officials state that their company has been better than most other companies in employing deaf workers. They say claims by deaf workers are distorted and inaccurate.
Larry Paradis, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said that it is not enough for a company to hire a large number of disabled workers and then limit their opportunities for promotion. “It’s a shameful defense to say that deaf people are entitled to nothing more than an entry–level job,” says Mr. Paradis, of Disability Rights Advocates. The plaintiffs plan to call more than 30 deaf employees and witness, including several managers.
Complaints by deaf workers include:
- Lack of information regarding Anthrax precautions due to safety meetings without interpreters.
- Unfulfilled promises that interpreters would be provided at meetings.
- Deaf workers barred from driving company trucks, although Federal Express and the Postal Service allow deaf drivers for their vehicles.
- Training videos without captions.
- Emergency building evacuations without adequate information to deaf workers.
Malcolm Berkeley, a spokesman for U.P.S., responds: “We have a strong record of providing opportunities for the hearing impaired and others with disabilities. For years, we’ve been committed to hiring, promoting and providing accommodation for people with disabilities.”
(Source: New York Times article, April 9, 2003 by Steven Greenhouse)