(LibertySociety.com) – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) of the federal government announced a lawsuit on Oct. 2 against Union Pacific Railroad. The EEOC is suing on behalf of 21 railroad conductors who were allegedly terminated after failing a vision test administered by Union Pacific. The EEOC argues that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a law that made terminating employees for disabilities illegal.
The commission also claimed that the test used by the company was flawed. According to the lawsuit, between 2014 and 2018, Union Pacific placed restrictions on nearly 2,000 workers, resulting in them being out of work for nearly two years. Some workers were never able to return to the job. That statement is likely a signal that additional lawsuits will be brought by the EEOC against the company.
Union Pacific has been steadfast in its defense of disqualifying workers, even refusing to agree to conciliation with the EEOC. The company said that the test it uses was approved by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The FRA-approved test is used to detect color blindness, but if employees fail to pass it, they will then undergo a company-approved color vision field test. Union Pacific said that it supports employees with disabilities, but that “it is critical” for safety that workers “correctly see and interpret the various signals that direct train movement.”
Union Pacific conducts the test to determine if workers can correctly identify the color of signals one-quarter of a mile ahead on the tracks, but the EEOC said that the test is invalid and is not a true replication of what identifying those signals would be like on the job. Union Pacific is the largest railroad company in the United States and runs through 23 states. Some of the employees represented in the lawsuit worked for the company for 30 years. The EEOC wants Union Pacific to compensate the former employees, as well as pay damages and change its policies.
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