Citing a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Obama administration is suing a trucking company for taking the keys away from an Arkansas driver and eventually firing him after he admitted he was battling alcohol abuse.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit this week arguing that Old Dominion Freight Line discriminated against Charles Grams by stripping him of his position and offering him a demotion even if he completed a substance abuse counseling program.
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Instead, the EEOC argued, the North Carolina-based company, which has a service center in Arkansas, should have complied with the law, known as the ADA, while ensuring safety.
“The ADA mandates that persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to achieve in the workplace,” said Katharine Kores, director of the EEOCs Memphis District Office, which covers Arkansas. “While the EEOC agrees that an employer’s concern regarding safety on our highways is a legitimate issue, an employer can both ensure safety and comply with the ADA.”
If the EEOC prevails, of course, it will mean that Old Dominion will still be liable both for any damage to life or property that results from a potential relapse by one of its recovering drivers – which in turn increases the risks involved in investment in the company – and for the cost of trying to ensure that such damage never occurs. All of these new burdens will raise Old Dominion’s cost of doing business, and hence the cost of everything they transport. And all of this can’t possibly ensure that a recovering driver does not relapse without the company’s knowledge.