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Bates v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

511 F.3d 974 (2007)

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Bates v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

511 F.3d 974 (2007)

Facts

United Parcel Service (UPS) (defendant) refused to consider Eric Bates (plaintiff), a deaf UPS employee, for package-car-driver positions. UPS’s qualification standards (i.e., requirements for an applicant’s eligibility for a particular job) required all package-car drivers to be able to meet the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) hearing-ability standard. However, the DOT itself only imposed its hearing-ability standard for drivers of vehicles above a certain weight class. In 2003, about 6,000 of 65,000 UPS vehicles were not subject to DOT regulations because the vehicles were below the relevant weight class. Bates sued UPS in federal district court on behalf of a class of deaf and hearing-impaired UPS employees who wished to transfer to package-car-driver positions (the class) (plaintiffs). At a bench (or non-jury) trial, the parties agreed that the ability to drive safely was an essential function of the package-car driver position. However, Bates argued that UPS’s hearing requirement was not an essential function of the package-car-driver position, and UPS’s systemic exclusion of all deaf and hearing-impaired applicants based on that standard violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). UPS claimed that the ability to drive all DOT-regulated vehicles was another essential job function. UPS additionally argued that its reliance on the DOT hearing standard was a business necessity. The district court rejected UPS’s argument, reasoning that UPS did not exclude some groups of people from the position who could not pass other DOT certification requirements, such as insulin-dependent diabetics. The district court enjoined UPS from using the DOT hearing standard. UPS appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (McKeown, J.)

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