The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing annouced today that Penske Logistics, LLC agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a group action lawsuit that DFEH filed in Fresno County Superior Court on behalf of 13 newspaper delivery drivers who Penske discriminated against due to real or perceived disabilities.
According to the announcement, The Fresno Bee outsourced its newspaper delivery to Penske. The former Fresno Bee drivers applied for jobs with Penske. And that’s where the trouble started.
First of all, the smart HR folks at Penske apparently thought that it was proper to ask job applicants if they had any non job-related physical conditions. I wonder if the smart folks in HR actually thought this was a proper inquiry or whether they knew it was not proper and decided to ask the intruding questions anyway just for the hell of it?
Penske gave the applicants a “Physical Capabilities Exam” that was, DFEH insists, inconsistent with FEHA because the exam required more physical capabilites from the applicant than the job actually required. Penske refused to hire those applicants that did not pass the Physical Capabilities Exam.
DFEH pointed out that the unsuccessful applicants had each worked as delivery drivers for The Fresno Bee for at least four years without any problems.
Penske settled, and agreed to pay $450k, even though they still denied liability. Penske also agreed to stop using the Physical Capabilities Exam and promised to train its people properly.
That’s an expensive lesson and this is a classic case of the lack of common sense.
You know that there will be some politicians or special interest groups out there who will tout this as just another case of big business harassment. Really, though, this was a case of workers simply trying to keep their jobs, probably at lower wages than what they were earning before doing the same jobs, and being bullied again by another big company with lots of lawyers who should know better.