Hirschbach Agrees To Settle Truck Driver Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
Portland, ME – Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc. has settled a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced last week.
Hirschbach will pay $40,000 and furnish other significant relief according to the EEOC.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Hirschbach, headquartered in Dubuque, Iowa, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by using a pre-employment back assessment to screen out and reject job applicants it regarded as disabled for truck-driving positions.
The back assessment tested, among other things, an applicant’s ability to balance and stand on one leg, touch toes while standing on one leg, and crawl.
The EEOC said that Hirschbach used the back assessment to screen out job candidates with pre-existing injuries and/or unrestricted medical conditions who had received conditional offers of employment.
The company did so even though the applicants had already received their Department of Transportation (DOT) medical certifications that authorized them to drive a truck, the EEOC claimed.
The EEOC also alleged many such applicants were quickly hired by other companies after their rejection by Hirschbach.
The EEOC charged that this violated the ADA because the assessment was neither related to the job of driving a truck nor consistent with business necessity.
The lawsuit also charged that Hirschbach prohibited over-the-road truck drivers who have an injury or impairment from working until they are 100% free of restrictions and limitations, which the EEOC asserted is also in violation of the ADA.
The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and explicitly prohibits employers from using qualification standards that screen out or tend to screen out applicants regarded as disabled, unless the standard is shown to be job-related for the position and consistent with business necessity.
The ADA also imposes a requirement that employees with disabilities be provided a reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship on the employer.
In a statement, the EEOC said it filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine in Portland after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The original complainant and one of the other claimants are from Maine, according to the complaint.
Hirschbach’s settlement payment of $40,000 will be distributed among three individuals who were denied employment because of the back assessment and who participated in the EEOC’s investigation and lawsuit.
As part of the settlement, Hirschbach is enjoined from using its prior back assessment and is limited to conducting a much narrower range of physical tests.
Hirschbach also agreed that it no longer has a 100%-healed policy and will not have one in the future.
Also as part of the agreement, Hirschbach agreed to adopt a “reasonable accommodation policy, provide training on the policy and the ADA to supervisors, and report semi-annually to the EEOC on how the company has complied with the settlement.”
Photo: Courtesy of Hirschbach Motor Lines