We saw a case like this only a few months ago – a military veteran was denied employment as a truck driver in Texas based upon a disability which was controlled by medication. Why? Because it was against “company policy.”
A newly filed suit by the EEOC in Florida similarly alleges that a trucking company refused to hire a military veteran who required the assistance of a trained service dog for his PTSD – because it has a “no pet” policy.
The Florida vet sought a driver position, signed up for and was admitted to the drivers’ certification course, and disclosed his disabilities and his use of a trained service dog “to help control anxiety and to wake him from nightmares caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).”
He “successfully completed the training program, but was denied advancement to orientation and additional on-the-road training,” because of the company’s “no pet” policy, and was not hired.
Reasonable accommodation Required
This refusal to permit a reasonable accommodation for a disability, if true, violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”). An EEOC regional attorney said, “The use of a trained service dog can be a reasonable accommodation. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with a disability.”
Another 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 Texas Case
The case in late 2016 involved the largest refrigerated trucking company in Texas. The EEOC sued 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.
An EEOC attorney said then 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.”
Takeaways: This new case is similar not only to the Texas case, but also to the cases which we have discussed in which the would-be employer refuses an American Sign Language interpreter to a deaf applicant or employee, or an alternative test to a person who cannot provide a urine sample because of renal failure; or to the host of others where a blanket corporate policy is used to refuse an applicant or employee a reasonable accommodation.
As I posted previously:
- 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.”
- “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.”
- 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.”