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Court Reverses Ruling, Says UPS Worker Entitled to Trial on ADA Claim

The complex case of Teresa Watts v. United Parcel Service Inc. has gone to trial three times and been appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati once before, according to the 6th Circuit's latest ruling.

December 17, 2012
Related Topics: Disabilities, Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, Labor Relations, Latest News
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An appellate court on Dec. 12 reversed a lower court ruling and said a United Parcel Service Inc. worker is entitled to a trial on her Americans with Disabilities Act claim.

The complex case of Teresa Watts v. United Parcel Service Inc. has gone to trial three times and been appealed to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati once before, according to the 6th Circuit's latest ruling.

Watts began working for Atlanta-based UPS in its Hamilton, Ohio, facility in 1990. In June 2000, she sustained a serious back injury while unloading a large tire from her delivery truck, according to the ruling.

In July 2002, a doctor reported she had reached a maximum medical improvement and was ready for a gradual return to her normal work in a restricted time frame, according to the ruling, and her temporary total disability payments were terminated in November 2002.

Earlier that November, Watts had been released to return to light-duty work, but she was rejected from participating in UPS' light-duty work program. Watts claimed UPS' rejection was based on her disability, while UPS said she was not qualified for the program and that language in its collective bargaining agreement supports its interpretation of the program's requirements.

In the most recent legal development, a lower court granted UPS' motion to dismiss the case, concluding Watts' ADA claim was pre-empted by the Labor Management Relations Act because it required interpretation of the collective bargaining agreement, and that the action was not filed within the required six-month statute of limitations.

The appellate court ruled, however, that "the motivating purpose of (the Labor Management Relations Act) pre-emption simply does not apply. Further, the right to be free from disability discrimination that Watts seeks to vindicate in this action does not arise from the (collective bargaining agreement) or from state law; rather it is founded on the ADA."

The case was remanded for a new trial on the ADA claim by the three-judge 6th Circuit panel.

Judy Greenwald writes for Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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