Judge rules Old Dominion's policy violates Americans with Disabilities Act

By Clarissa Kell-Holland, Land Line staff writer | 6/26/2013

A federal judge has ruled that Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc’s “no return” policy for drivers who self-report alcohol abuse violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In his ruling in the case on Monday, June 24, U.S. District Court Judge Jimm Larry Hendren wrote that Old Dominion’s policy, which “fails to even consider the possibility of accommodation, cannot be justified either on public safety concerns or business necessity considerations.”

He added that his ruling “will be incorporated in the judgment to be entered when this case is concluded.”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Old Dominion in the U.S. District Court for the Western District in Little Rock, Ark., in 2011, after a driver who worked there was told that he would never be able to return to his job as a truck driver.

According to court documents, the driver claims he was suspended, reassigned to a position as a part-time dock worker with no benefits, then terminated for job abandonment, after reporting to his supervisor that he had an alcohol abuse problem. Alcohol abuse is a recognized disability under the ADA, and he was going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

He was also informed by Old Dominion that even upon completing an outpatient treatment program he would never be reinstated as a truck driver, according to the EEOC complaint.

During its investigation, the EEOC “discovered drivers at other service centers whom the employer had allegedly subjected to similar treatment.” It had an unwritten policy of banning “all drivers who self-report for alcohol abuse from returning to driving positions.”

According to U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, drivers who misuse alcohol while on-duty may return to duty as drivers if certain requirements are met. In Judge Hendren’s decision, he states that the agency’s regulations “are less clear, however, as to what is required to be done if a driver self-reports an alcohol problem and the employer has no such written program or policy.” 

The driver for Old Dominion was not on-duty when the alcohol was consumed and had worked for the company for five years “without incident.”

“Because the litigation is ongoing, we don't have a comment at this time,” Justine Lisser, spokesperson for the EEOC, told Land Line on Wednesday, June 26.

Both the EEOC and Old Dominion had filed motions for summary judgment in the case. The judge denied in part the EEOC’s motion on the issue of liability, except for the ADA determination, and denied Old Dominion’s motion for summary judgment.

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