"The use of a trained service dog can be a reasonable accommodation,” said Gregory Gochanour, EEOC regional attorney for the Chicago District. “Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with a disability."
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleges CRST Expedited Inc. violated federal law when it failed to accommodate, refused to hire and retaliated against a job candidate because he used a service dog. EEOC filed the disability discrimination lawsuit March 2.
According to the EEOC complaint, an applicant for a truck driver position with CRST in Fort Myers signed up for the drivers' certification course with CRST's partner training company. After being admitted to the truck driver training program, but prior to leaving for to begin it, the applicant disclosed that he is a veteran who uses a trained service dog to help control anxiety and to wake him from nightmares caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The applicant successfully completed the training program, but was denied advancement to orientation and additional on-the-road training. CRST said that he could not advance to the on-the-road program, which requires overnights away from home, due to CRST's "no pet" policy, according to EEOC. He was subsequently denied hire.
"CRST's refusal to accommodate [the applicant] is an example of the hardships that returning veterans with disabilities can face as they seek to reintegrate into civilian life," said Jean Kamp, EEOC associate regional attorney for the Chicago District. "Those challenges are hard enough without an employer denying someone a job simply because he needs a service dog, as so many do."
The EEOC also alleges that around the same time that CRST denied that request for accommodation, the company developed a new "Service Dog Process" to address requests seeking the use of a service dog. But CRST still denied the applicant an opportunity to qualify for accommodation under the new policy.
The EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. CRST International Inc./CRST Expedited Inc.) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The lawsuit asks the court to order CRST to hire the applicant and to pay him appropriate back pay and front pay, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit also seeks a permanent injunction enjoining CRST from failing to provide a reasonable accommodation for disability, failing to hire an applicant due to a disability, retaliating against an applicant for seeking a reasonable accommodation, and interfering with applicants' rights under the ADAAA.
"The use of a trained service dog can be a reasonable accommodation,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the Chicago District. “Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to an employee with a disability."
CRST has yet to file a response to the EEOC complaint and did not respond immediately to a request for comment. The trucking company and the federal agency have a contentious history: In 2013, a judge ordered EEOC to pay CRST Van Expedited $4.7 million in legal costs for bringing dozens of “unreasonable or groundless” claims of sexual harassment during a lawsuit that lasted more than six years.