BOSTON – An Agawam man has been awarded more than $800,000 from his former employer, United Parcel Service, after the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination determined the firm engaged in discrimination based on his disability.
The award, which includes back pay and damages for emotional distress, is among the largest the state agency has ever made in a discrimination case, its press liaison Barbara J. Green said on Monday.
UPS has filed a notice of appeal in the case, Green said.
The worker, William Anderson, a 21-year employee of UPS at its West Springfield center, claimed he was the victim of discrimination based on his diagnosis in 2005 with bipolar depression and anxiety disorder, according to Green. He claimed UPS effectively dismissed him when they refused his request to be transferred from a nighttime managerial post to a less stressful day job.
As compensation for the employer’s discrimination, the hearing officer awarded back pay in the amount of $143,970, front pay in the amount of $603,520 and damages for emotional distress in the amount of $125,000. The compensation totals $872,490.
Anderson, who is now a systems manager at a local hardware store, last worked at UPS in the spring of 2007, according to his lawyer, Maurice M. Cahillane, of Egan, Flanagan and Cohen in Springfield. Cahillane said his client is “very happy with the award. I do think we expect to be able to prevail on appeal.”
“I think the award they made is just based on the evidence,” said Cahillane. He described Anderson as a “longtime employee who essentially gave them his whole career and they pretty much ruined his career. His last job there was a preload manager where he was basically in charge of running nighttime operations and making sure all the packages (got) out.”
The West Springfield UPS facility, located at 120 Wayside Ave., employs between 200 and 250 people.
The attorney for UPS, Michael C. Harrington, of the law firm Murtha Cullina, said the company was “shocked by the award mainly because the evidence wasn’t disputed.” He added, “I found it very interesting that the hearing officer didn’t specifically identify what job he could do. It was generic in that regard.”
After being granted medical leaves and receiving treatment for his disorder, Anderson had asked UPS to let him relinquish his nighttime managerial position and reassign him to a less stressful supervisory position on the day shift.
His request was supported by medical evidence, a doctor’s recommendation that he be allowed to work as a supervisor during the day, and by evidence that the company frequently reassigns employees from one position to another, the commission said.
The hearing officer in the case concluded Anderson was “constructively discharged” as a result of the company’s failure to participate in a reasonable dialogue with him regarding his job-related limitations and its refusal to grant him a reasonable accommodation, according to Green. Constructive discharge is when an employee is forced to leave employment, she said.
The agency’s hearing officer did not accept the position of UPS that it declined to transfer the employee to a daytime job because his doctor had not filled out required paperwork, Green said. The hearing officer also discredited UPS’ assertion that there were no positions he could perform, she said.
Harrington said most UPS employees work between 50 and 60 hours a week and usually stay until all packages are loaded and delivered. “It’s a great company, and you can make a significant salary on a high school education” with many retiring at 55, he said.
Harrington said if the award prevails on appeal, he plans to further appeal it with legal action in Hampden Superior Court. “We feel there are several pure legal questions. I feel our appeal has a lot of merit,” he said.
Anderson filed his complaint in February 2008, according to Green. It was investigated by staff from the agency’s Springfield office during a three-day hearing.
So-called “front pay” is awarded when a person can no longer work due to no fault of their own, and the amount is what they would have earned had they continued their employment.
The commission has investigated more than 3,000 cases over the last year enforcing anti-discrimination laws in employment, housing, lending and public accommodation, according to Green.
By PAMELA H. METAXAS, Masslive.com