Delivery worker scanning package in warehouse

Deaf FedEx Package Handler Gets $2 Million in Disability Discrimination Case

A former package handler at FedEx Ground who is deaf won a $2 million jury award in a disability discrimination lawsuit. The case highlights the need for employers to proactively address workers’ concerns about reasonable accommodations. The employee struggled with anxiety and frustration when FedEx did not fully participate in the interactive process to consider reasonable accommodations.

Notably, FedEx Ground has faced similar allegations in the past, including a prior lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that covered deaf package handlers across the country. The Santa Clara County jury found that FedEx failed to prevent disability discrimination in this latest case despite the EEOC’s previous legal action.

Younes Mchaar, who was born deaf, started working as a FedEx Ground part-time package handler in Virginia in 2011. According to his 2020 lawsuit, Mchaar was denied promotions and received inadequate interpretive services during his tenure in Virginia. Seeking better workplace conditions and better pay, he transferred to the San Jose, California, facility in April 2017. Mchaar made the move expecting that management would provide reasonable accommodations to support his communication needs.

Package handlers are tasked with loading and unloading packages from delivery vehicles, as well as repositioning them in FedEx Ground’s conveyor systems. Workers also scan, sort and route packages. Reasonable accommodations allow deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers to carry out their essential job functions and communicate with management.

Despite Mchaar’s expectations, FedEx did not meet with him to discuss reasonable accommodations until December 2017. The company eventually agreed to provide American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters for safety meetings and Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) for daily meetings. However, the ASL interpreters were frequently absent from safety meetings. The VRI did not arrive until June 2018 and often failed to work properly.

Mchaar also faced a pattern of discriminatory practices in San Jose, reminiscent of his experiences in Virginia. Managers repeatedly shouted at him and mocked him. Another even spit on him, according to Mchaar’s lawsuit. Non-deaf workers with fewer qualifications were promoted and entrusted with important projects.

FedEx did not take any action even after Mchaar complained about the harassment and denial of reasonable accommodations. Instead, his complaints led to retaliatory actions, including 10 write-ups in under three months and a proposed termination. He ultimately resigned from his job and later filed the lawsuit. FedEx indicated that it was looking into legal options for appealing Mchaar’s $2 million jury verdict.

Mchaar’s case, however, is part of a broader issue. Throughout his employment, FedEx Ground was engaged in a legal battle with the EEOC over its mistreatment of deaf workers across the nation. The EEOC filed a lawsuit in 2014, alleging federal law violations by FedEx Ground in discriminating against deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and job applicants.

The EEOC case contended that FedEx Ground failed to provide necessary accommodations such as ASL interpretation and closed-captioned training videos during mandatory tours, orientations, staff meetings and safety meetings. Additionally, the company refused to modify or substitute equipment, including providing scanners with vibration cues instead of audible beeps and adding flashing lights on moving equipment.

In 2020, FedEx agreed to pay a $3.3 million settlement to around 229 workers. The company committed to providing deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers with ASL interpreting, as well as scanning equipment with non-audible cues. FedEx also agreed to install warning lights on forklifts and other motorized equipment. 

Mchaar’s $2 million verdict underscores the fact that workplace disability discrimination can and does occur. Workers with disabilities may struggle to obtain reasonable accommodations even in the wake of previous legal actions against an employer.

If you have faced disability discrimination in the workplace, it can often feel like there is nothing you can do. However, California law provides important rights and protections to workers who have disabilities. You may be able to obtain compensation for the unlawful treatment you suffered, along with getting your employer to change their illegal practices.

While McCormack Law Firm was not involved with this case, our experienced San Francisco employment lawyers are dedicated to advocating for workers who have suffered unlawful treatment at work. Contact us today to learn more and schedule a free case evaluation.

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