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Court: UPS discriminated against deaf drivers

By David Kravets

AP Legal Affairs Writer

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling that UPS Inc. violated anti-discrimination laws by automatically barring the deaf and hearing-impaired from driving parcel delivery trucks.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson's 2004 ruling that the Atlanta-based company's practices breach the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Henderson, in a class-action case representing as many as 1,000 would-be drivers, ruled that the hearing impaired 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 San Francisco federal court order was stayed pending appeal.

On appeal, UPS maintained its hiring practice was a safety issue and that it was not discriminating. The company did not immediately have a comment, a spokesman said.

''While UPS offered anecdotal testimony involving situations where a driver avoided an accident because he or she heard a warning sound, the company ... failed to show that those accidents would not also have been avoided by a deaf driver who was compensated for his or her loss of hearing by, for example, adapting modified driving techniques or using compensatory devices such as backing cameras or additional mirrors,'' Judge Marsha Berzon wrote for a three-judge panel of the appeals court.