Sept 22 (Reuters) - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Friday said it sued United Parcel Service for disability discrimination, alleging the delivery firm refused to hire deaf or hearing-impaired individuals as drivers.

The agency said the Department of Transportation (DOT) has authorized the practice of employing those individuals to drive vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds through a program that exempts them from a hearing test and instead uses alternative criteria to ensure an equivalent level of driver safety.

Atlanta-based UPS said it is modifying driver training for those who are deaf and hard of hearing and would start accepting exemptions to the DOT commercial driver hearing standard for operators of its ubiquitous brown delivery trucks in January 2024.

UPS said training is necessary because "current regulations do not consider best practices for driving larger commercial vehicles that make frequent stops in residential neighborhoods, or other significant factors UPS considers as it works to help keep its drivers and communities safe."

EEOC said it sued the world's largest parcel delivery firm under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) after failing to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

"Just because someone is deaf does not mean they cannot drive safely," said Gregory Gochanour, EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago.

The case, EEOC v. UPS, Civil Action No. 1:23-cv-14021, was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

(Reporting by Kannaki Deka in Bengaluru and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Chris Reese)