Iowa Commission Says Firing of Alcoholic Driver Violates Civil Rights Laws

January 17, 2001

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Iowa-based Casey’s General Stores says it will appeal a $200,000 award ordered by the state Civil Rights Commission in a case involving the termination of a truck driver for an off-the-job drunk driving arrest.

Casey’s fired the driver, Steven Blackford, in 1990 after learning that his driver’s license had been temporarily revoked for driving while intoxicated. He was not on duty at the time. Blackford complained to the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, arguing that his alcoholism is a disability under state civil rights laws -- thus Casey’s was required to provide reasonable accommodations and was prohibited from firing him.
Blackford’s attorney also argued that Casey’s knew of his disability prior to the termination, citing as evidence a drunk driving charge in 1984. Casey’s countered that they weren't aware of his alcoholism prior to the arrest. The company also maintained that "reasonable accommodation" requirements do not compel an employer to overlook infractions of the law.
The Commission sided with the driver and ordered Casey’s to pay more than $200,000 in back pay, damages and interest. The company will now seek review in civil court. Blackburn now works for another company as a truck driver and, according to his attorneys, hasn't used alcohol since shortly after the 1990 arrest.

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