Bill Brown alleges that Stevens Transport, one of the four largest refrigerated trucking companies in the United States, refused to hire him as a truck driver because he takes medication to control his bipolar disorder. On November 30, 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on Mr. Brown’s behalf.
Mr. Brown applied for employment as a driver with Stevens Transport in March 2015. Stevens Transport told Mr. Brown they would not hire him as a truck driver because he regularly took a certain medication to manage symptoms of bipolar disorder, due to a a company policy prohibiting drivers from taking medications including Lexapro, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, and Latuda. Mr. Brown objected, as he had fulfilled a course in advanced truck driving and passed the Department of Transportation (DOT) physical that is required to hold a commercial driver’s license (CDL). Mr. Brown claims that neither Stevens Transport nor its physician made an individual assessment of him, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Mr. Brown’s medical provider issued a report stating Mr. Brown was capable of driving safely while on medication. No U.S. DOT regulations prohibit people who take medication for bipolar disorder from commercial truck driving.
Refusing to hire an applicant because he takes a certain medication may violate the ADA, which protects employees from discrimination based on disability. The ADA requires that an employer make an individualized assessment of an applicant’s ability to perform essential job functions before making an employment decision based on disability. Accommodations for disabled employees must not be overly burdensome to the employer, and the employee must still be able to perform essential job functions with any accommodation. Additionally, the disabled employee cannot pose a risk to her- or himself or others through the performance of job functions if that risk is not eliminated or reduced by a reasonable accommodation. Positions such as truck drivers are particularly sensitive, given the risks involved in driving a truck. Stevens Transport allegedly disregarded Mr. Brown’s physical exam results, his completion of training, his CDL, and the positive report from his medical provider when it refused to hire him because of the medication he takes regularly.
In addition to its alleged violation of the ADA, Stevens Transport missed out on an opportunity to add a valuable employee to their team; Mr. Brown went on to become a successful truck driver with another company.
If you feel you have been discriminated against because of your disability, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.