The Old Dominion Freight Line trucking company, based in North Carolina but with 211 service centers across the country, found itself with a personnel problem back in June 2009. An employee with an otherwise clean record approached management and confessed he had a drinking problem. Following U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, the company suspended this employee from his driving position, and referred him for substance abuse counseling.
The company took one other action: they told the alcoholic that they would never let him drive trucks for them again, even after he finished his counseling program. They have apparently told other alcoholic drivers the same thing in the past.
This is not an unreasonable position, for eighteen-wheel trucks are complex and dangerous vehicles, and alcoholism has a very high relapse rate. From an article at About.com:
There is evidence that approximately 90 percent of alcoholics are likely to experience at least one relapse over the 4-year period following treatment. Despite some promising leads, no controlled studies definitively have shown any single or combined intervention that prevents relapse in a fairly predictable manner. Thus, relapse as a central issue of alcoholism treatment warrants further study.
Unfortunately for the Old Dominion Freight Line, other trucking companies, and everyone who finds themselves driving in the shadow of an 18-wheeler with a drunk driver:
Alcoholism is a recognized disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and disability discrimination violates this federal law. The EEOC said that the company violated both the ADA and the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendment Act of 2008 (ADAAA) by conditioning reassignment to non-driving positions on the enrollment in an alcohol treatment program. In addition, the EEOC argued that Old Dominion’s policy that bans any driver who self-reports alcohol abuse from ever driving again also violates the ADA.
The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The suit seeks 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.
“The ADA mandates that persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to achieve in the workplace. Old Dominion’s policy and practice of never returning an employee who self-reports an alcohol problem to a driving position violates that law,” said Katharine Kores, director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, whose jurisdiction includes Arkansas. “While the EEOC agrees that an employer’s concern regarding safety on our highways is a legitimate issue, an employer can both ensure safety and comply with the ADA.”
That’s from the official EEOC press release about the case. Do you want to know why our economy is in free fall, and unemployment remains high? It’s because every business in America is terrified of this out-of-control Administration and its bureaucratic legions. They perpetrate lunacy like this all the time, and your business could be their next target.
If they’re not sending Justice Department troops to confiscate the property of Gibson Guitars, which has the misfortune to be run by a Republican campaign donor, they’re dishing out madcap edicts that cause business costs to skyrocket. As Lachlan Markay of the Heritage Foundation explains:
If the EEOC prevails, of course, it will mean that Old Dominion will still be liable both for any damage to life or property that results from a potential relapse by one of its recovering drivers – which in turn increases the risks involved in investment in the company – and for the cost of trying to ensure that such damage never occurs. All of these new burdens will raise Old Dominion’s cost of doing business, and hence the cost of everything they transport. And all of this can’t possibly ensure that a recovering driver does not relapse without the company’s knowledge.
Your industry could be the next one targeted for demonization by desperate Democrats with plunging poll numbers. You might be the next to catch the madly rolling eyes of a bloated bureaucracy that has ruled common sense out of bounds. No wonder business expansion is static. Every employee you hire is a ticking time bomb of unpredictable liabilities, from exploding ObamaCare costs to incendiary Red Queen decrees from the EEOC.
It’s better not to hire anyone. It might be safest to go out of business altogether. At least that way you won’t be held liable for the damage and deaths caused by a drunk driver you were compelled by the federal government to put behind the wheel of an enormous truck.