Truckers Sue Under The ADA

I don’t know why, but it seems that employment discrimination lawsuits involving trucking companies are becoming a staple over at the EEOC.  As I collect disability cases filed by the EEOC against medical and healthcare folks (“easy pickins’ for thhe EEOC”), it seems that I am encountering a growing number of such cases involving truck drivers with disabilities.

As discussed below, we have recently seen cases of military veterans who were refused employment as truck drivers based upon a disability.

And also truck drivers who claim religious discrimination.

It’s not likely that trucking companies are more discriminatory than any other employers.  Maybe it’s the availability of jobs to those who may have been displaced by the gig economy…

The latest case is a $65,000 settlement announced by the EEOC against a Texas-based fuel transport company which allegedly “denied hire to a truck driver because he had had his arm amputated during his teenage years,” even though he had more than 20 years of experience driving trucks.

The EEOC noted – and this is key – that the trucking company “made an assess­ment, without evidence or proof, that there was no accommodation that would allow [him] to do the job safely, and failed to engage in an interactive process of exploring that with him.”

A refusal to permit a reasonable accommodation for a disability violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”).  And an individualized assessment of each employee or applicant is essential.

Prior Trucker Disability Cases

A recently filed suit by the EEOC in Florida alleged that a trucking company refused to hire a military veteran who required the assistance of a trained service dog for his post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) – because it had a “no pet” policy.

An EEOC attorney commented that this “refusal to accommo­date [him] is an example of the hardships that returning veterans with disabilities can face as they seek to reintegrate into civilian life.  Those challenges are hard enough without an employer denying someone a job simply because he needs a service dog, as so many do.”

The EEOC sued in an earlier case claiming that it was “company policy” not to hire an Air Force vet suffering from bipolar disorder because he took medication to control his condition, even though he had medical reports showing that he could drive safely.

Prior Trucker Religious Discrimination Cases

Seems that a South Carolina company hired a Hebrew Pentecostal truck driver who told them that he could not, for religious reasons, work on the Sabbath, but it eventually fired him for refusing to do so.  The EEOC has now sued the company.

The post last year involved — a North Carolina company which hired a Seventh-day Adventist truck driver whose religious beliefs require that he not work on the Sabbath.  “The company’s facilities were usually closed on Saturdays and employees only worked Saturdays on limited occasions. … but the company asked [him to work on a particular] Saturday.”  He refused and was fired.  The company settled the EEOC lawsuit for $42,500.

And late last year, a major trucking company agreed to pay $260,000 to settle religious discrimination charges filed with the EEOC.  It was alleged that four East Indian Sikh job applicants refused to provide a hair sample for the company’s drug testing policy because their religious belief is that they must maintain uncut hair.  They therefore requested an accommodation – any available alternative drug test – but were denied such an accommodation and not hired.

Takeaway:  I guess it’s …  if you are a trucking company be careful these days!





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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]