Friday, August 26, 2011

Accommodation for Diabetes Leads to Defense Verdict

I just came across the Pennsylvania ADA accommodation case of Campbell v. UPS. This was a defense verdict and shows the facts of a case in which a claimant seeking what he believed was a reasonable accommodation was unsuccessful at trial.

Plaintiff James Campbell was a full-time package car driver at UPS's Thornburg Center in Crafton since 1993. He was also a member of International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 249. Campbell's duties included loading and unloading, sorting and driving.

On Feb. 17, 1999, Campbell began the first of a series of extensive medical leaves of absence from his package car driver position, and was on and off work until May 27, 2000, when he commenced a leave that lasted for the next five years. Campbell did not seek to return again to work until mid-May 2005. At that time, Campbell provided UPS with a letter from his doctor, wherein the doctor wrote that Campbell had developed diabetes mellitus during the five-year absence and was being treated with insulin.

In May 2005, after returning from a series of operations and rehabilitative processes beginning in 2000, Campbell, 40s, a diabetic, claimed that he was told that he would not be qualified as a driver.

He alleged that he complained to management about the unlawful treatment, and filed his first Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint that month. Campbell claimed that he was informed by supervisor Cathy Cline that a protocol existed for insulin-dependent diabetics to operate a package car weighing 10,000 pounds or less.

According to Campbell, he was not mailed the correct diabetic-related forms until July 2005, in retaliation for his EEOC complaint filed in May 2005, alleging disability harassment and discrimination. Campbell was required to retake and pay for a diabetic training class and education, which he had previously completed and was redundant, he claimed. When he complained to Rocco DiFillipo, an agent for Local 249, DiFillipo promised to pursue the matter; however, Campbell claimed that he did not do anything about the retaliation against Campbell.

Campbell received a letter dated Oct. 5, stating that there was "no available position...for which you are qualified...with or without reasonable accommodation."

He alleged that UPS' physician allowed Campbell to operate vehicles under 10,000 pounds. While pursuing this avenue, Cambpell was not offered any position, including non-driving positions, despite the fact that he was qualified to perform non-driving functions based upon his previous work experience, according to Campbell.

Claiming violation of the ADA, discrimination and retaliation, Campbell sued UPS, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Teamsters Local 249, supervisor David Zimmerman, Cline and DeFillipo. The complaints against the union defendants and DeFillipo were voluntarily dismissed by joint stipulation.

Plaintiff's counsel argued that UPS repeatedly refused to make a reasonable accommodation for Campbell's disabilities and refused to place him in any position, despite the fact that the plaintiff was medically cleared for full-time work. UPS, Cline and Zimmerman subjected Campbell to continual belittlement, harassment and discrimination over the fact that he has disabilities, plaintiff's counsel argued.

Counsel contended that Campbell's repeated complaints about the treatment that he received and his repeated requests for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA were ignored and ridiculed by the defendants.

The defendants denied the allegations. In late November 2006, Campbell obtained a diabetes mellitus exemption from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCAS), whereupon UPS--on Dec. 15, 2006--returned him to work as a package car driver, according to defense.

Counsel argued that UPS provided plaintiff with information about its diabetes protocol in July 2005, which, had the Thornburg Center had the appropriate vehicles, could have allowed Campbell to return to work driving a vehicle weighing less than 10,000 pounds.

According to counsel, the FMCAS maintains a Federal Diabetes Exemption Program; however, at the time that Campbell sought to return to work, he had not applied for or obtained an exemption. Accordingly, by virtue of federal law and his self-reported condition, the plaintiff was not permitted to drive a UPS package car weighing more than 10,000 pounds. All of the package cars used on the regular commercial or residential routes at the Thornburg Center weigh in excess of 10,000 pounds, counsel contended.

Subsequently, plaintiff applied for a diabetes mellitus exemption from the FMCSA, according to defense. While that application was pending, UPS offered Campbell the only available inside, non-driving positions at the Thornburg Center: one part-time inside bargaining unit position or two split-shift bargaining unit positions pending the resolution of plaintiff's efforts to secure a diabetes mellitus exemption. Defense contended that Campbell rejected UPS's offer to return to work.

The jury wound up finding for the defendant at this trial.

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