Judge OKs USPS’ $4.5M Deal With Deaf Workers

          (CN) – A federal judge approved a $4.55 million settlement in a decade-long class action accusing the U.S. Postal Service of failing to accommodate deaf and hearing-impaired workers.
     Under the terms of the settlement approved by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington, D.C., class counsel will receive $910,000 in attorneys’ fees and $114,216 in expenses.
     The class action grew out of two related complaints brought before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In 1998, Bruce Hubbard sought EEOC intervention after he said he was denied reasonable accommodations at the USPS Brentwood facility in Washington, D.C.
     After formal mediation, the postal service promised accommodations would be forthcoming, but less than two years later, Hubbard filed a second complaint saying the specific accommodation he felt he needed – a sign language interpreter – had again been denied.
     In May 2003, he filed a class action accusing the USPS of violating the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. That lawsuit was later expanded to include more plaintiffs. It amended again, this May, to include alleged violations of a Rehabilitation Act provision that bars employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities in the federal sector.
     After litigating the case before the EEOC and in Federal Court for nine years, the parties began negotiating a settlement. They returned to mediation in 2010, and in October 2012, the court preliminarily approved a proposed settlement plan, approving everything but the attorneys’ fees and costs.
     On review, Judge Leon said he found the settlement to be “fair, adequate and reasonable” because it “was reached in arm’s length negotiations undertaken in good faith between experienced counsel after extensive discovery, factual investigation, and legal analysis.”
     “There is no evidence of unfairness or collusion that would preclude final approval,” Leon wrote.
     “Class counsel had more than ‘sufficient information through adequate discovery, to reasonably assess the risks of litigation vis-à-vis the probably of success and range of recovery,'” he wrote, quoting the standards of a 2003 district court ruling.

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