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UPS Inc. violates anti-discrimination laws by barring the deaf and hearing-impaired from driving parcel delivery trucks, a federal judge ruled Thursday. U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson said the Atlanta-based company’s practices breach the Americans with Disabilities Act, and ordered revisions in UPS’ policies within 30 days. In a class action case in San Francisco representing as many as 1,000 would-be drivers, Henderson said those with poor hearing should “be given the same opportunities that a hearing applicant would be given to show that they can perform the job of package-car driver safely and effectively.” The company said it was considering appealing. “For us, the bottom line — it’s a public safety issue,” UPS spokeswoman Peggy Gardner said. “It’s not a discrimination issue. I can’t emphasize that enough.” Last year, under a $10 million settlement in the same case, UPS agreed to track promotions and ensure that hearing-impaired employees and job applicants have access to certified interpreters. The company also agreed to provide text telephones and vibrating pagers to alert poor-hearing employees to emergency evacuations. The settlement resolved all issues in the 5-year-old case except the driver dispute. Oakland, Calif.-based Disability Rights Advocates represented the current and former employees who were passed over for the driving positions, and others who acquiesced to what the group dubbed UPS’ “deaf-need-not-apply” policy. The dispute centered on UPS’ custom of denying hearing-impaired workers jobs operating delivery trucks weighing under 10,000 pounds. Federal rules demand that trucks exceeding 10,000 pounds be staffed by those meeting certain vision and hearing requirements, and demands those drivers become certified. But the government leaves it up to companies to decide which drivers are qualified to operate lighter vehicles. The U.S. Postal Service and FedEx Corp. allow some deaf drivers to operate delivery vehicles under 10,000 pounds. Caroline Jacobs, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the decision was a good day for the disabled and her clients. Among the named plaintiffs, Babranti Oloyede, has been a truck loader in Oakland for 13 years and has been denied a promotion to driver. Oloyede was not immediately available for comment. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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