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UPS May Appeal Ruling Mandating Deaf Truck Drivers

By Adam Tanner

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - United Parcel Service Inc. on Friday said it may appeal a court decision that the world's largest package carrier cannot bar all deaf people from driving its trucks.

A federal judge ruled on Thursday that UPS had failed to show deaf drivers have a higher accident rate and thus should not be barred from driving smaller trucks.

"We are very strongly considering an appeal," said UPS spokesman Norman Black. "The case presents to us nothing more or less than an issue of public safety and that's what this case is about."

Any appeal would go to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, he said.

In the same case, Atlanta-based UPS agreed last year to pay $5.8 million to settle part of a class-action lawsuit charging that it discriminated against deaf workers.

The San Francisco federal court ruled on the related issue of whether hearing-impaired drivers should be allowed to drive UPS delivery trucks that weigh up to five tons, an area not covered by federal safety regulations.

"The evidence at trial clearly established that deaf drivers do not pose any greater safety risk than their hearing counterparts," said Caroline Jacobs, an attorney with Disability Rights Advocates of Oakland, California, one of the law firms representing the plaintiffs, deaf drivers in a class action suit.

"UPS, instead of engaging in a good-faith interactive process with the deaf employees, categorically barred them from what are the most lucrative and most sought after positions at UPS based on unsupported stereotypes."

In an interview, she said the amount of damages in the case was still open to negotiation or further court proceedings.

Rosaline Crawford, an attorney with the National Association of the Deaf, says no state restricts the deaf from driving

passenger vehicles.

The Department of Transportation sets vision and hearing requirements for drivers of trucks weighing more than five tons and requires that those drivers be certified.

The government allows private companies to set their own safety standards for drivers of lighter trucks, but UPS says it believes that the driver qualifications should be the same.

The plaintiffs' lawyers estimate that about 1,000 UPS employees are deaf. UPS has 317,000 employees in the United States and 40,000 in other countries.

© Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.




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