The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that court finally agreed that the applicants have disabilities as defined by the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, but it also agreed with UPS that the hiring the applicants as drivers would pose a safety hazard to others.
The lower court ruled that the applicants could not establish violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) because they failed to show they had disabilities as defined by federal law. The appellate court, however, accepted that the applicants were disabled as defined by California law, according to SHRM. The ADA requires proof of a substantial limitation of a major life activity, whereas California law requires only proof of a limitation.
According to the court opinion, the applicants “demonstrated that seeing, and a variety of tasks for which seeing is commonly used, are made difficult for them because of their monocularity and consequent inability to perform stereopsis,” which facilitates near-field depth perception. In addition, the fact that their condition disqualified them under Department of Transportation and state certification rules was enough to make them limited in the major life activity of working.
The court found, though, that UPS did not discriminate against the applicants because they would have posed a safety risk to others. The court also found that the UPS Vision Protocol was based on objective and statistical evidence that monocular drivers are involved in more accidents than people with vision in both eyes, and the company protocol did not categorically exclude monocular individuals from working as drivers, but was applied on a case-by-case basis.
The case was EEOC v. United Parcel Service, 9th Cir., No. 03-16855 (Sept. 15, 2005).