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Government Files Lawsuit Against Union Pacific for Disqualifying Color Blind Railroad Workers with Flawed Test

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Government Lawsuit Targets Union Pacific Over Disqualifying Color Blind Railroad Workers

The federal government has filed a lawsuit against Union Pacific, alleging that the railroad used a flawed vision test to disqualify workers it believed were color blind. The lawsuit, announced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), represents 21 former workers and is the first of potentially hundreds of lawsuits over Union Pacific's disqualification practices. The railroad estimated that as many as 7,700 individuals may have been affected by its "fitness-for-duty" review between 2014 and 2018. The plaintiffs' lawyers estimate that nearly 2,000 workers faced job restrictions for at least two years, if not indefinitely. Union Pacific has defended its policies, citing safety concerns and federal regulations requiring color vision testing.

Controversial Vision Test and Disqualification Practices

The lawsuit centers around Union Pacific's "light cannon" test, which the EEOC claims does not accurately replicate real-world conditions or assess workers' ability to identify railroad signals. Some workers who failed this test but passed another vision test approved by the Federal Railroad Administration are among the plaintiffs. Others presented medical evidence to the railroad indicating they did not have color vision problems. Many of the workers had successfully performed their jobs for Union Pacific for several years without safety issues.

Safety Concerns and ADA Violations

While safety is a top priority, firing qualified employees based on an invalid color vision test does not promote safety and may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), according to Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago District. Union Pacific's disqualification practices have come under scrutiny, with critics arguing that they do not enhance safety and unnecessarily exclude competent workers from employment.
Legal Battle and Railroad Safety
The lawsuit against Union Pacific is part of a broader legal battle, with more than three dozen lawsuits filed so far and additional cases under review by the EEOC. Railroad safety has been a national concern, particularly following a hazardous chemical spill caused by a train derailment in Ohio. Proposed reforms from Congress and regulators are still pending approval. Union Pacific, based in Omaha, Nebraska, operates tracks in 23 Western states and is one of the largest railroads in the country. The outcome of this lawsuit and potential future cases will have significant implications for the railroad industry and the rights of workers with disabilities.

Implications of Union Pacific Lawsuit for New Businesses

The lawsuit against Union Pacific over disqualifying color blind workers could have significant implications for new businesses, particularly in industries where safety is paramount. The case underscores the importance of fair and accurate employee assessments and the potential legal repercussions of discriminatory practices.

Reevaluating Employment Practices

The controversy surrounding Union Pacific's vision test and disqualification practices serves as a wake-up call for businesses to reevaluate their own employment practices. It's crucial to ensure that any tests or assessments used in the hiring or evaluation process accurately reflect the demands of the job and do not unfairly exclude qualified individuals.

Understanding Legal Obligations

The lawsuit also highlights the importance of understanding and complying with legal obligations under laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Businesses must ensure that their practices do not discriminate against individuals with disabilities and that safety concerns are addressed in a manner that respects workers' rights.
Navigating Legal Challenges
Finally, the ongoing legal battle faced by Union Pacific illustrates the potential challenges businesses may face when their practices come under scrutiny. New businesses must be prepared to navigate such challenges, which could include multiple lawsuits and regulatory reviews. Understanding these potential implications can help businesses develop more inclusive, fair, and legally sound practices.
Story First Published at: https://financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/government-sues-union-pacific-over-using-flawed-test-to-disqualify-color-blind-railroad-workers
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