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EEOC sues trucking company for failing to accommodate a driver’s service dog

The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prevents an employer from discriminating against a disabled worker who can, with or without reasonable accommodation, perform the essential functions of the relevant job. The employer must reasonably accommodate the disability unless the accommodation would impose an undue hardship.

Leon Laferriere is a military veteran with PTSD. His psychiatrist prescribed using a service dog to control anxiety. He applied for a job at a trucking company, telling his potential employer that he used a service dog. The company then admitted Mr. Laferriere into its training program. However, when Mr. Laferriere successfully completed his initial training program, the company terminated him, citing its “no pets” policy related to Mr. Laferriere’s service dog’s accompanying him while driving.

On March 2, 2017, the EEOC filed suit against the company in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Case No. 3:17-cv-241.  The EEOC brought claims against the company that allege both failure to accommodate Mr. Laferriere’s disability and retaliation. The company has not yet responded to the Complaint. The EEOC is seeking injunctive relief against the company, back pay for Mr. Laferriere, an order that the company rehire him, and compensatory and punitive damages.

The obligations that the ADA, and other federal and state civil rights laws, impose on employers can be complex. Is your employee’s condition actually a “disability” under the ADA? What are the “essential functions” of the job at issue?  Is the accommodation sought “reasonable”? Does the accommodation sought, though reasonable, impose an “undue hardship” on the business? Getting any of these questions wrong can lead to costly litigation.

If you have any questions about whether an employment practice exposes your company to potential liability, then please contact our employment law team at (804) 377-1260.

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