The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing motor carrier CRST Expedited Inc. – a subsidiary of freight company CRST International Inc. – over disability discrimination and retaliation charges.
The EEOC alleges that the trucking company refused to hire Leon Laferriere – a Navy veteran – who requested that his service dog be allowed to ride in the truck with him.
The action was filed by the EEOC in early March in a U.S. District Court in Florida. According to court documents, Laferriere applied for a truck driver job with CRST in Fort Myers, Fla.
After successfully completing the truck driver training course, Laferriere claims he was denied advancement to the carrier’s orientation and additional on-the-road training after disclosing that he used a trained service dog to help control anxiety caused by post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
The EEOC is suing CRST to address the violations of Laferriere’s federally protected rights, said Leslie Carter, lead attorney for the EEOC.
“CRST refused to hire Laferriere as a truck driver because of his disabilities, refused to accommodate his disabilities and retaliated against him when he requested the use of a prescribed service dog as an accommodation for his disabilities,” Carter told Trucks.com.
In the lawsuit, Laferriere alleges CRST told him that he couldn’t advance to the on-the road program, which requires overnights away from home, because of CRST’s “no pet” policy. He was subsequently denied hire.
The EEOC also alleges that around the same time that CRST denied Laferriere’s request under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the motor carrier developed a new “Service Dog Process” to address accommodation requests seeking the use of a service dog.
Under the new policy, however, the complaint alleges that CRST still denied Laferriere the opportunity to qualify for accommodations.
Carter said CRST implemented its new service dog program within one month of “refusing to employ Laferriere and denying his request for accommodation.”
The lawsuit asks the court to order CRST to hire Laferriere and pay him back pay and front pay, along with punitive and compensatory damages.
Employment attorney Jon Hyman said Laferriere was denied an “interactive process,” where the employer and potential employee sit down and discuss the medical condition to determine what accommodations the employer can offer the employee.
“In this case, the truck driver had a serious diagnosed medical condition with a certifiable need for a service animal,” Hyman told Trucks.com. “What struck me as extremely egregious in this case is the company saying they have a no pet policy, but then implements a service animal policy that would have allowed this driver to work at CRST.”
“However, [Laferriere] wasn’t even given a chance,” he said.
CRST Expedited, which is headquartered in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and employs more than 3,600 drivers, did not respond to a Trucks.com request for comment about the case.
This lawsuit is in the very early stages of litigation and “the next step is for CRST to respond to EEOC’s complaint,” Carter said.