Equip for Equality Joins EEOC Lawsuit Against United Parcel Service for Unlawfully Rejecting Deaf and Hard of Hearing Applicants for Driver Roles
CHICAGO, IL – This morning, Equip for Equality, the federally mandated Protection & Advocacy System for people with disabilities in Illinois, joined the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in suing United Parcel Service (UPS) for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to hire interstate drivers who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
When Kurt Bernabei, a qualified truck driver, applied to be an interstate commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operator for UPS, he was flatly rejected because he is Deaf.
The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandates that CMV operators pass a hearing test, yet the same agency grants exemptions for a limited number of Deaf and hard of hearing drivers who have proven their ability to drive safely through a rigorous, public process. Such drivers must demonstrate that they have achieved a level of safety equivalent to or greater than the level that would be achieved by complying with UPS’s hearing standards. This exemption program has been operating successfully since 2013.
Mr. Bernabei has earned and renewed that federal exemption three times since 2019. Yet UPS has chosen to disregard such exemptions. While Mr. Bernabei quickly found other work driving a CMV after UPS turned him down, and is still driving safely today, he felt it was important to join this case against UPS to support “equal rights for Deaf truck drivers.”
“It is clear to us that UPS is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not hiring Mr. Bernabei. He, and all drivers who are Deaf or hard of hearing, should be allowed to utilize the Department of Transportation’s alternative method of certifying the safety of drivers,” said Sujatha Jagadeesh Branch, Vice President for Civil Rights and Systemic Litigation at Equip for Equality.
Equip for Equality and the EEOC believe UPS’s policy of ignoring the DOT’s exemption is discriminatory to people with disabilities and unlawful under the ADA. The original lawsuit, titled EEOC v. UPS, Civil Action No. 1:23-cv-14021, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Today, Equip for Equality joined the lawsuit by filing a motion to intervene in the case for Mr. Bernabei.
“Other American employers have readily hired drivers like Kurt, who worked hard and earned the exemption by safe driving, and it’s past time for UPS to join them,” said Equip for Equality Senior Attorney Paul W. Mollica, who filed a motion to intervene earlier today.
Equip for Equality
Established in 1985, the mission of Equip for Equality is to advance the human and civil rights of people with disabilities in Illinois. Equip for Equality is a private not-for-profit legal advocacy organization designated by the Governor to operate the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy System to safeguard the rights of people with disabilities. For more information about Equip for Equality, go to www.equipforequality.org
This publication is made possible by funding support from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, both the Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Center for Mental Health Services of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; and the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services. The contents of this website are solely the responsibility of Equip for Equality and do not necessarily represent the official view of any of these agencies.
Last updated: October 18, 2023