One more time the Takeaway comes first: Under the ADA you cannot discriminate against applicants or employees based upon a disability or perceived disability, and you must interact with the applicant or employee to determine if the person can perform the responsibilities of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

The largest refrigerated trucking company in Texas apparently did not do this when it rejected an Air Force vet as a truck driver because he suffered from bipolar disorder.

The EEOC sued claiming that it was the trucking “company policy” not to hire him because he takes medication to control his condition, even though he had medical reports showing that he could drive safely.

The EEOC noted that he was well qualified for the position and that “There are no U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations prohibiting people on these medications from commercial truck driving.”

An EEOC attorney said that no individual medical assessment was made as to his condition, and that the company not only violated the ADA but “lost an opportunity to add a valuable employee to its team. Mr. Brown is a veteran who gave years of his life for his country and who has gone on to become a successful truck driver with another company – which should demonstrate his professional fitness.”

There are three sub-takeaways today:

  1. Employers must conduct “individualized assessments” when they have concerns about an employee’s ability or fitness to perform the job duties. In my post, “Just Say No (To Blanket Drug Exclusions For Job Applicants),” I quoted an EEOC official who said that “Even when drug tests are permitted under the ADA, they cannot be used to discriminate against qualified people with disabilities. Companies need to be mindful that they may need to make exceptions to drug use policies as a reasonable accommodation.”
  2. “Fears, biases or stereotypes” against people with disabilities is at the core of lawsuits and charges filed under the ADA. An EEOC attorney said recently that “It’s not only bad business to forgo hiring a qualified employee simply because of fears, biases or stereotypes against people with disabilities, it’s also a violation of the law.”
  3. Another EEOC attorney said that “People with disabilities have one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Providing equal employment opportunities to all job applicants – including those with disabilities – is not just the law, it is good for our economy and our workplaces.”