The New Jersey attorney general announced this week that a trucking company must pay a former employee with sleep apnea $30,000 for failing to reinstate him despite medical clearance.
New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and the Division on Civil Rights issued a news release on Wednesday, Aug. 8, saying that New Jersey trucking company P. Judge & Sons will make the payment to resolve allegations it fired the former employee despite repeated medical examinations certifying him as fit for duty.
As part of the settlement, P. Judge & Sons must pay the former employee, who was not named to protect his medical privacy, $15,000 for lost wages and $15,000 for alleged pain and suffering. The employee worked as a yard switcher in Pork Newark.
“This case should serve as a reminder to employers across New Jersey that our law against discrimination prevents disability discrimination, and we are committed to ensuring those rights are protected,” Grewal said in the news release. “In the face of repeated certifications of fitness for duty by licensed medical professionals, employers simply do not have authority to impose their own, uninformed biases and terminate a person with a disability.”
In March 2015, the employee received a physical required by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and he was diagnosed with sleep apnea and placed on medical leave. After the diagnosis, the employee began treatment for sleep apnea and a received a new physical examination. During that exam, he received a one-month medical examiner’s certificate and was cleared to return to work.
According to the New Jersey attorney general, the employee was denied reinstatement by the trucking company, saying he needed a three-month medical examiner’s certificate.
“However, after (the employee) underwent a subsequent physical examination and obtained a medical examiner’s certificate valid for three months, he was again denied reinstatement,” the news release stated.
After being out of work for seven months, the employee filed a formal complaint with the Division on Civil Rights.
As part of the investigation, one of the trucking company officials told investigators that the employee was not permitted to resume work because he was continuing to receive treatment for his sleep apnea, and the company is “under no obligation to employ individuals whose health is noncompliant.”
According to the news release, another trucking company official contended that the employee wasn’t fired and that he was a potential liability.
“We know from our investigation that the company has, in the past, returned employees to work on the basis of a one-month medical examiner’s certificate,” Craig T. Sashihara, director for the Division on Civil Rights, said in the news release. “We know that because company officials who we interviewed told us so. Again, the law is the law, and ignorance of it – or disagreement with it – is no excuse.”
In addition to paying $30,000, the settlement requires P. Judge & Sons to adopt a variety of workplace policy and training reforms. The company must also submit to state monitoring of its treatment of employees and job applicants with disabilities for two years.
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