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EEOC Sues Hirschbach Motor Lines For Disability Discrimination

National Trucking Company Used "Back Assessment" to Screen Out Job Applicants It Regarded as Disabled, Federal Agency Charges

Hirschbach Motor Lines, Inc. violated federal law by using a pre-employment "back assessment" to screen out and reject job applicants it regarded as disabled for truck-driving positions in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a recently filed lawsuit.

According to the EEOC's complaint, the "back assessment" tested, among other things, an applicant's ability to balance and stand on one leg, touch their toes while standing on one leg, and crawl. Hirschbach used the assessment to identify and screen out job candidates with pre-existing injuries and/or medical conditions who had received conditional offers of employment. It did so even though the applicants had already received their Department of Transportation medical certifications authorizing them to drive a truck.

The EEOC also said Hirschbach maintains a policy prohibiting its over-the-road truck drivers who have an injury or impairment from working until they are free of restrictions and limitations.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits employers from discriminating based on disability and expressly prohibits employers from using qualification standards that screen out or tend to screen out applicants regarded as disabled unless the standard is shown to be job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity. The ADA also requires employees with disabilities be provided a reasonable accommodation, unless it causes an undue hardship to the employer.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maine (EEOC v. Hirschbach Motor Lines, Civil Action No. 2:18-cv-00175-GZS) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

"Federal law prohibits employers from using standards or tests that tend to screen out the disabled or those applicants the employer regards as disabled," said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office. "Hirschbach's back assessment was unnecessary to assess the ability of the applicants to perform the job, and was an unlawful standard."

EEOC's New York District Director Kevin Berry said, "Employers cannot refuse to offer a reasonable accommodation required by law unless is causes an undue hardship. Hirschbach's '100% free of restrictions' policy violated this requirement."

EEOC's New York District Office oversees New York, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.