Florida judge orders CRST service dog case moved to Iowa

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | Tuesday, November 07, 2017

A Florida federal judge approved CRST International’s request to have a lawsuit that accuses the company of unlawfully rescinding its job offer to a military veteran moved to Iowa.

However, the court denied CRST’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a complaint in March with a Florida federal court, saying that Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based CRST decided not to hire Leon Laferriere in June 2015 after he made several requests for the company to allow him to use a service dog as an accommodation for his post-traumatic stress disorder and mood disorder. The EEOC said CRST’s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In May, CRST asked the court to move the case from Florida to Iowa, because “the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred in the Northern District of Iowa, where all the decisions relating to Mr. Laferriere’s employment application were made.”

The EEOC contended that Florida was the proper district, because Laferriere attended the driving school in Florida and would have likely worked in Florida.

However, Judge Timothy Corrigan ordered on Nov. 1 that the case be transferred to Iowa.

“As the EEOC’s claims could have been brought in the Northern District of Iowa, the Court will transfer this action there,” he wrote.

“The acts the EEOC references that occurred in Florida, such as Laferriere’s psychiatric treatment for his disability, the request for an accommodation, and his opposition to CRST’s no-pet policy, are not unlawful employment practices; they merely comprise the events leading up to the allegedly unlawful employment practice. Rather, it was the decision not to hire Laferriere because of his disability that is allegedly unlawful and took place in Cedar Rapids.”

In the EEOC’s original complaint, attorneys said Laferriere’s psychiatrist prescribed him an emotional support/service animal to assist him in coping with his disabilities and to maintain appropriate social interactions and workplace functions.

Laferriere claimed a CRST manager and recruiter pressured him to leave his dog at home and refused to provide the accommodation for his disabilities. In June 2015, CRST told Laferriere he could not drive with his service dog because of company policies, the lawsuit alleged. Soon after, Laferriere said he repeated his request and told the company he believed the denial violated the ADA.

“On or around June 15, 2015, CRST retaliated against Laferriere by rescinding its offer of employment, sending Laferriere home to Fort Myers from the driving school of Jacksonville instead of moving him forward to new driver orientation,” according to the complaint. “CRST also retaliated against Laferriere in June 2015 by failing to provide Laferriere with the opportunity to participate in an interactive process to determine if his request to drive with his service dog was a reasonable accommodation.”

CRST said a plan had been established for Laferrier to conduct his 28-day on-road training period with his brother, who is an experienced truck driver. However, CRST said those plans fell through when his brother decided not to work for the company.

 

 

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