Truck driver wins alcohol disability suit against employer

Wisconsin truck drivers might be interested in a case in which Old Dominion Freight Line was found guilty of violating the American with Disabilities Act and ordered to pay one of its former drivers more than $100,000 in back pay. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued the company on behalf of the employee after the driver was dismissed when he sought help for an alcohol problem in 2009. Under the Americans with Disability Act, alcoholism is considered a disability. Employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for disabled employees.

According to the suit, the man was an employee in good standing with the company for five years in Arkansas. In the summer of 2009, he sought assistance from his company for alcohol abuse, began attending Alcoholics Anonymous and met with a substance abuse professional certified by the Department of Transportation who said he could return to work.

The EEOC says that what neither the man nor his local management knew was that the company’s unofficial policy was to prevent drivers with alcohol problems from returning to their jobs. Instead, the man was offered part-time work with no health care benefits and at half the pay. The company said that this constituted a reasonable accommodation but lost its argument. The man was terminated for job abandonment later that year.

Individuals who feel they have been the target of job discrimination as a result of a disability may want to discuss potential accommodations with their employer. If the employer is unwilling to take those measures, the employee may wish to speak with an attorney. Disability discrimination might also take the form of being refused a promotion, demoted or terminated. A hostile work environment in which the individual faces harassment as a result of the disability may also be considered discriminatory.

Source: Commercial Carrier Journal, “Old Dominion loses disability bias suit, ordered to pay $119k to driver who self-reported alcoholism”, Jill Dunn, Jan. 28, 2015

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