Archives for April 2010

UPS Hit Hard by MCAD Again

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination has hit United Parcel Service with a second substantial judgment for discriminating against a Massachusetts employee. This time, the complaint was for handicap bias by UPS in Springfield, Massachusetts. After a trial at the MCAD, UPS was ordered to pay almost $750,000 in lost wages and another $125,000 in emotional distress.

The case of William Anderson, Jr. v. UPS was decided in March 2010. It involved a handicapped man who sought a reasonable accommodation but was denied by UPS, which refused to engage in a required interactive discussion with Mr. Anderson, made unreasonable demands, and, according to the Commission, placed form over substance as it violated Massachusetts anti-discrimination law. “Respondent’s approach to the reasonable accommodation process was long on formality, short on meaningful communication,” the Commission wrote. UPS took unauthorized photos that made demonstrated Mr. Anderson’s condition but still claimed to be uninformed about it. UPS was “rigid and unyielding” in its approach to Mr. Anderson and refused to engage in a flexible dialogue toward a mutually acceptable accommodation of his disabilities, the commission concluded. With interest and legal fees, the award could exceed $1 million. [Read more…]

Take Care with Arbitrator Selection

Sometimes litigants learn the hard way that the judicial system doesn’t always dispense justice as well as it merely settles disputes. With arbitration, that lesson can be particularly harsh, since arbitrators aren’t required to follow the same rules as judges and, in almost every case, their decisions cannot be appealed. For this reason, the choice of an arbitrator to decide your lawsuit requires extreme care.

The pitfalls of a bad arbitrator selection process can be substantial. Virtually unfettered authority leaves arbitrators free to exercise biases that should play no role in the legal process. They can unjustly inflate awards, find excuses for denying them, and make arbitrary and capricious decisions like changing their minds in mid-stream about applicable law or refusing to award interest on judgments they do issue. Even when a litigant suspects something untoward has occurred — as I now do in a recent arbitration in which I was involved — there’s normally no way to address the problem once an arbitrator is selected and renders a decision. [Read more…]