A federal judge in Arkansas has ruled against Old Dominion Freight Line in a case over a truck driver who self-reported alcohol abuse and the company’s “no return” policy for drivers who suffer from such problems.
The case was brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission nearly a year ago. The agency claimed the carrier violated the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The driver at the Fort Smith location had worked for the company for five years without incident. In late June 2009, the employee reported to the company that he believed he had an alcohol problem. Under U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, the employer suspended the employee from his driving position and referred him for substance abuse counseling.
ODFL also informed the driver that the employer would never return him to a driving position, even upon the successful completion of a counseling program. During the investigation, the EEOC says it discovered drivers at other service centers whom the employer had allegedly subjected to similar treatment.
The judge agreed with EEOC's claim that alcoholism is a recognized disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act and therefore ODFL's policy violates this federal law.
The case has yet to be concluded. The EEOC is seeking monetary relief in the form of reinstatement to a driving position, back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, compensation for lost benefits for two drivers and an injunction against future discrimination.