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.

The Anderson decision comes on the heels of a 2009 judgment in favor of Thomas Sobocinski, an employee in UPS’s Shrewsbury, Massachusetts facility who claimed that a supervisor named Russell Ford made lewd sexual remarks over an extended period of time. Despite broad evidence of Mr. Ford’s misconduct and at least two other MCAD complaints alleging that he discrmiinated, UPS vigorously defended the lawsuit before losing it after an MCAD trial. UPS continues to employ Mr. Ford. Though it paid only about $125,000 in damages in the Sobocinski case, it also was ordered to conduct broad and costly anti-discrimination training of its numerous Massachusetts management employees. That portion of the Sobocinski decision — which is expected to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars — is  currently on appeal at the Commission.

UPS, it appears, remains neither concerned over big discrimination judgments in Massachusetts nor interested in training its managerial staff to help avoid them in the future.