On March 22, 2001, an employee of the package-delivery company United Parcel Service, Inc. ("UPS") filed an individual claim of discrimination in an administrative complaint against his employer, with the Pennsylvania Human Resources Commission (PHRC) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). He charged UPS with unlawful discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq., alleging that UPS failed to provide him with reasonable accommodation after his return from medical leave.
The PHRC dismissed the complaint for lack of probable cause, but the EEOC found reasonable cause. On December 10, 2003, the EEOC sent the employee a notice of right to sue after unsuccessful conciliation. The EEOC further noted that it did not plan to bring any suit against UPS on its own.
On March 10, 2004, the employee together with another employee with a similar claim against UPS filed this lawsuit against UPS in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, under the ADA and Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701. They brought this action on behalf of themselves and all other similarly situated employees of UPS, alleging a pattern or practice of unlawful discrimination of their employer. Represented by an Equal Justice Foundation attorney and several private counsel, the plaintiffs sought injunctive, declaratory, and monetary relief.
Specifically, they claimed that 1) UPS required a 100% medical release before an employee could return to his or her last job; 2) UPS implemented an ADA compliance policy to delay or avoid providing accommodations; 3) UPS used pretextual uniform job descriptions to prevent disabled employees from taking the jobs; 4) UPS prohibited disabled employees from taking alternative jobs or using seniority rights to transfer to other jobs to accommodates their disabilities; 5) UPS withdrew accommodations previously provided to disabled employees and denied their requests for the accommodations; and 6) UPS retaliated against employees who exercised their rights under the ADA.
After the plaintiffs moved for class certification on June 29, 2004, the District Court (Judge Joy Flowers Conti) permitted limited discovery with respect to the class certification motion. While that discovery was ongoing, another employee filed a similar suit against UPS, alleging discriminatory practices in violation of the ADA and seeking class treatment of his claims on November 4, 2004. Counsel for the two plaintiffs in this case moved to consolidate the two cases, and the Court initially granted consolidation for the purpose of discovery only, and later consolidated the cases for all purposes.
In the meantime, UPS filed a motion for summary judgment as to the plaintiffs' class claims, on the ground that the class claims were not in the plaintiffs' administrative complaints. On December 23, 2005, the Court denied this motion. Hohider v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., CIV.A. 04-363, 2005 WL 3533701 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 23, 2005). The Court found that the investigation and determination of the EEOC had given enough notice to UPS's counsel of the potential for class claims.
On July 26, 2007, the Court granted the plaintiffs' motion to certify class in part and denied the motion in part. Hohider v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 243 F.R.D. 147 (W.D. Pa. 2007). The Court held that the class was certified with respect to the first three claims. The Court further limited the class claim relief to injunctive and declaratory relief. UPS appealed the decision to the 3rd Circuit, and sought a stay of proceedings in the District Court.
On December 19, 2007, the Court appointed a special master to take care of the discovery disputes. The appointment was in response to the plaintiffs' discovery motions alleging UPS's failure to properly preserve e-discovery materials for this litigation. On February 8, 2008, the 3rd Circuit ordered a stay of proceedings in the lower court pending a decision on the appeal. The parties disputed whether the stay affected the jurisdiction of the District Court to resolve the discovery issues in plaintiffs' motions. The special master suspended his duties. On July 31, 2008, after the parties fully briefed the issue, the 3rd Circuit Court determined that the stay did not extend to the plaintiffs' motions at issue. The special master resumed his duties in August 2008.
With respect to the plaintiffs' allegations, the special master filed two discovery reports and recommended that the District Court find UPS had a duty to preserve e-discovery materials. Accordingly, the Court ordered investigations, but UPS tried to delay or stop the process and refused to submit the withheld documents for in camera view. UPS filed an emergency motion to stay the proceedings of the issue, but the Court denied the motion on April 28, 2009. Hohider v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 257 F.R.D. 80 (W.D. Pa. 2009).
On July 23, 2009, the Circuit Court reversed the lower court's grant of class certification and remanded the case for further proceedings, in an opinion by Judge Anthony Joseph Scirica. Hohider v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 574 F.3d 169 (3d Cir. 2009). The Court reasoned that the lower court could not adjudicate plaintiff employees' claims and reach a finding of class-wide liability and relief without first inquiring into the individual employment qualification under the ADA and thus reasonable accommodation with respect to the class.
The parties started mediation and pursuing settlement. On August 31, 2010, both parties settled and jointly dismissed the case. Unfortunately, the settlement agreement is not available. This ended the case.Emma Bao - 07/23/2013