Trucking Company Refused to Hire Veteran Because He Uses a Service Dog, Federal Agency Charges
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- CRST Expedited Inc., a national trucking company, violated federal law when it failed to accommodate, refused to hire and retaliated against a job candidate because he used a service dog, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a disability discrimination lawsuit it filed on March 2, 2017.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Leon Laferriere applied for a truck driver position with CRST in Fort Myers and signed up for the drivers' certification course with CRST's partner training company. After being admitted to the truck driver training program, but prior to leaving for to begin it, Laferriere disclosed his disabilities and use of a trained service dog. Laferriere is a veteran who uses a trained service dog to help control anxiety and to wake him from nightmares caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Laferriere successfully completed the training program, but was denied advancement to orientation and additional on-the-road training. CRST told Laferriere that he could not advance to the on-the-road program, which requires overnights away from home, due to CRST's "no pet" policy. Laferriere was subsequently denied hire.
The EEOC also alleges that around the same time that CRST denied Laferriere's request for accommodation, CRST developed a new "Service Dog Process" to address accommodation requests seeking the use of a service dog. But CRST denied Laferriere the opportunity to qualify for accommodation under the new policy.
Disability discrimination violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. CRST International Inc./CRST Expedited Inc., 3:2017cv00241 ) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The lawsuit asks the court to order CRST to hire Laferriere and to pay him appropriate back pay and front pay, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit also seeks a permanent injunction enjoining CRST from failing to provide a reasonable accommodation for disability, failing to hire an applicant due to a disability, retaliating against an applicant for seeking a reasonable accommodation, and interfering with applicants' rights under the ADAAA.
"Laferriere did the right thing by disclosing that he used a service dog due to disabilities to the CRST recruiter before leaving for the driver's certification course," said Julianne Bowman, district director for the EEOC's Chicago District office, which investigated the charge of discrimination.
Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the Chicago District, said, "The use of a trained service dog can be a reasonable accommodation. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with a disability."
Jean Kamp, associate regional attorney for the Chicago District, added, "CRST's refusal to accommodate Mr. Laferriere is an example of the hardships that returning veterans with disabilities can face as they seek to reintegrate into civilian life. Those challenges are hard enough without an employer denying someone a job simply because he needs a service dog, as so many do."
The EEOC's Chicago and Miami District offices are working collaboratively on this litigation. The districts are responsible for investigating charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.