National Trucking Company Used 'Back Assessment' to Screen Out Job Applicants It Regarded as Disabled, Federal Agency Charged
PORTLAND, Maine - National trucking company Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc. will pay $40,000 and furnish other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Hirschbach, headquartered in Dubuque, Iowa, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by using a pre-employment back assessment to screen out and reject job applicants it regarded as disabled for truck-driving positions. The back assessment tested, among other things, an applicant's ability to balance and stand on one leg, touch toes while standing on one leg, and crawl. The EEOC said that Hirschbach used the back assessment to screen out job candidates with pre-existing injuries and/or unrestricted medical conditions who had received conditional offers of employment.
The company did so even though the applicants had already received their Department of Transportation medical certifications that authorized them to drive a truck. In fact, many such applicants were quickly hired by other companies after their rejection by Hirschbach. The EEOC charged that this violated the ADA because the assessment was neither related to the job of driving a truck nor consistent with business necessity.
The lawsuit also charged that Hirschbach prohibited over-the-road truck drivers who have an injury or impairment from working until they are 100% free of restrictions and limitations, also in violation of the ADA.
The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and explicitly prohibits employers from using qualification standards that screen out or tend to screen out applicants regarded as disabled, unless the standard is shown to be job-related for the position and consistent with business necessity. The ADA also imposes a requirement that employees with disabilities be provided a reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship on the employer.
The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-0017-GZS) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine in Portland after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The original complainant and one of the other claimants are from Maine.
Hirschbach's settlement payment of $40,000 will be distributed among three individuals who were denied employment because of the back assessment and who participated in the EEOC's investigation and lawsuit.
As part of the settlement, Hirschbach is enjoined from using its prior back assessment and is limited to conducting a much narrower range of physical tests. Hirschbach also agreed that it no longer has a 100%-healed policy and will not have one in the future. Hirschbach also will adopt a reasonable accommodation policy, provide training on the policy and the ADA to supervisors, and report semi-annually to the EEOC on how the company has complied with the settlement.
"We are pleased that Hirschbach reached a timely resolution with the EEOC that provides both make-whole monetary relief and important equitable relief," said Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein of the EEOC's New York District Office. "The company's willingness to stop the screening practices at issue and consider reasonable accommodations shows a new commitment to ensuring that all individuals qualified for a job have an equal opportunity for hiring."
EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry added, "The ADA prohibits arbitrary medical screens and onerous physical tests that prevent people from getting jobs for which they are qualified. The EEOC will continue to be vigilant in seeking to change such unlawful practices."
The EEOC's New York District Office oversees New York, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
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.