EEOC sues UP over 21 employee terminations for failed vision tests

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific over allegedly firing 21 train conductors and locomotive engineers who failed a company-administered vision test.

The lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota last Friday, alleges that UP (NYSE: UNP) violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because the railroad terminated employment on the basis of disability and used an unlawful qualification in screening those 21 individuals.

The EEOC said in a Monday news release that the light cannon test created by UP doesn’t replicate real-world conditions or accurately assess whether someone can identify the color of railroad signals. Upon failing the test, UP placed the individuals on indefinite leave and also required some of the individuals to undergo “inappropriate” medical exams and questing, according to the EEOC.

“It is illegal under the ADA to terminate an employee on the basis of a perceived disability,” said Diane Smason, acting director of the EEOC’s Chicago District. “Discrimination against disabled workers is a problem the EEOC will continue to vigorously address.”

Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District, said, “Everyone wants railroads to be safe. However, firing qualified, experienced employees for failing an invalid test of color vision does nothing to promote safety, and violates the ADA.”

EEOC reportedly filed the lawsuit after a failed attempt to go through the conciliation process with UP. The agency wants the individuals to be reinstated and receive back pay. EEOC also wants UP to pay for compensatory and punitive damages as well as change its policies.

In response to the lawsuit, UP told FreightWaves that the vision tests it administers have been reviewed and approved by the Federal Railroad Administration. The railroad said it administers the Ishihara Test as required by FRA regulations as an initial color vision test, and if an employee fails that test, UP uses its standard color vision field test.

“Union Pacific is dedicated to supporting employees impacted by disability. It is critical for the safety of our employees and communities where we operate that conductors and locomotive engineers correctly see and interpret the various signals that direct train movement,” UP told FreightWaves.

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The post EEOC sues UP over 21 employee terminations for failed vision tests appeared first on FreightWaves.

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Editor: Joanna Marsh