Trucker sues former employer for allegedly falsely reporting alcohol test results

By Tyson Fisher, Land Line staff writer | Thursday, December 21, 2017

A Philadelphia trucker is suing his former employer for misinterpreting results of a random drug/alcohol test and consequently tarnishing his record, making it difficult to find another job as a driver. The driver’s record indicated a refusal to submit to an alcohol test, but he claims he never received the chance to refuse one in the first place.

On Dec. 5, Kenneth Morris of Philadelphia filed a lawsuit against UniGroup Logistics, United Van Lines, Safeway Logistics and WorkSmart Systems. United Van Lines and Safeway are subsidiaries of Fenton, Mo.-based UniGroup. WorkSmart Systems is a professional employer organization that provides human resource services to UniGroup.

In May, Morris was told that he had been selected for a random drug/alcohol test, per Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Morris immediately reported to the testing site, where he followed instructions and submitted what was asked of him. The lawsuit claims that Morris has never consumed a drug or alcohol in violation of the federal motor carrier safety regulations or any other law for that matter.

Shortly after tests were completed, Morris was told that he had refused to take an alcohol test. Based on federal motor carrier safety regulations, refusing a test has the same negative effect as testing positive. However, the lawsuit alleges that any claim that Morris refused an alcohol test is false.

According to court documents, the Treatment Authorization form indicated a checkmark on a box labeled “drug/alcohol test, specify type and reason/purpose below.” However, none of the boxes for “type” were checked. The Custody and Control Forms signed only apply to drug tests, not alcohol tests. Furthermore, a Department of Transportation Alcohol Testing Form must be provided for each blood alcohol test (BAT). No such form was given to Morris.

Backing Morris’ claim, the company that conducted the tests admitted fault in an email to a Safeway representative, stating “Through an administrative error, a BAT was not performed on Kenneth A. Morris on 5/18/17.” That email was forwarded to a Safeway recruiter who passed it along to a United Van Lines substance abuse coordinator.

Despite confirmation from the lab, a review by safety management determined that the “Van operator would have known he didn’t take a breath alcohol test at the clinic,” putting the blame back on the driver and effectively cancelling Morris for 18 months.

Exactly one hour had passed from the time the lab sent the confirmation email to the time the substance abuse coordinator sent the email with management’s final decision.

The complaint notes that, since a blood alcohol technician did not sign an Alcohol Testing Form, the test would be considered a “canceled test” rather than a refusal. Consequently, the claim that Morris refused an alcohol test should be seen as knowingly false.

According to the complaint, Morris has held a CDL since 1996 and has never had a license suspension of any kind nor has he ever been ineligible to work as a commercial truck driver before the incident with UniGroup.

As a result of the alleged false claim, Morris had difficulty finding work since prospective employers were able to see the “refused” alcohol test when requesting drug test results, making him ineligible to operate a commercial motor vehicle.

After several companies refused to accept Morris’ explanation, he was eventually hired by CRST International, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Morris had worked for CRST previously.

Morris is suing his former employer for defamation, claiming they published false statements that led to lost back pay, lost benefits, emotional distress and possible future lost employment.

UniGroup provided Land Line with the following statement:

“UniGroup is aware of the lawsuit filed by Kenneth Morris. Safety is our company’s priority. As such, we are diligent about following all safety regulations, including those involving drug and alcohol testing. The safety, well-being and fair treatment of our van operators is also critically important to our organization. We are reviewing the facts associated with Mr. Morris’ situation to make sure it was handled appropriately.”

 

 

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