Vet With Service Dog Denied Employment: Was Company Asking The EEOC To Sue It?

There appears to be a new category of cases where the EEOC may be targeting employers who discriminate:  veterans with disabilities.


The employers are easy targets.  You know:  “low hanging fruit.”

I already posted last week about the EEOC going after “fat, juicy targets”:

My review of the cases brought by the EEOC in the last few years leads me to believe that the EEOC finds that targeting health care professionals for disability or pregnancy discrimination yields cheap and quick results – settlement.

Well, it may now be the same with employers generally who the EEOC finds are violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by discriminating against veterans.  The EEOC just settled one such case for $47,500, and an EEOC attorney explained that:

“[the] refusal to hire and accommodate this applicant 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 a veteran a job simply because he needs a service dog. Employers must not retaliate against employees or applicants for requesting accommodations.”

Ok, so now you probably know what the case was about.

The EEOC sued an Iowa national trucking conglomerate for allegedly failing to accommodate “a truck driver applicant, a Navy veteran, because he used a service dog to assist with his disabilities.” He passed the required commercial drivers’ licensing course, and disclosed that he used a service dog “to assist with his disabilities” (post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”)) but … he was not hired because of the company’s “no pet” policy.

Unbelievable.  Who could possibly have sympathy for an employer whose “no pet” policy trumps a veteran who needs the assistance of a service dog — was this company begging for the EEOC to come in and tell them that the company was in violation of the ADA?

A blanket and rigid “no pet” policy without regard to those who are protected by the ADA is non-compliant in and of itself.  There must be an “interactive discussion” about possible “reasonable accommodations” which are not “unduly burdensome.”

But in a case where the applicant was a veteran in need of a service dog?

Was the company begging to be sued?

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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]