EEOC: drinking history no reason to withhold heavy trucking jobs

by Walter Olson on August 30, 2011

Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., an interstate trucking company, doesn’t want to put drivers with a history of drinking problems behind the wheel, and has accordingly been sued by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), under which alcoholism is considered a protected condition. I’ve got details in a new post at Cato at Liberty (& Bader/CEI, Lachlan Markay/Heritage, Fox News).

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1 Dave 08.30.11 at 6:21 am

I wonder, does this mean that anyone who loses a loved one to a commercial drunk driver will have standing to sue the EEOC?

2 Reformed Republican 08.30.11 at 7:32 am

I thought the ADA only required reasonable accommodation. I would think reassignment to a job that could be performed, despite the person’s disability, was reasonable accommodation.

3 Bob Lipton 08.30.11 at 8:56 am

Reasonable accomodation for someone for a drinking disorder is to put them in charge of ADA compliance.


4 Hans Bader 08.30.11 at 10:07 am

The EEOC’s demand is wrong, although the poor drafting of the ADA gives it wiggle room to make the unreasonable demand. The ADA contains a narrow safety exception, which courts have relied on to hold that hospitals don’t have to employ HIV-positive surgeons. See Doe v. University of Maryland Medical System Corp. (4th Cir. 1995).

An alcoholic truck driver seems like an even bigger threat than an HIV-positive surgeon. But the law is vague enough that different judges interpret the same exception somewhat differently, so the EEOC can use it to make life miserable for businesses with such unreasonable demands unless an employer is willing to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting its demand in court.

Here’s my take on the EEOC’s argument, and the anti-business, job-killing mindset it reflects on the part of the current Administration:

5 Shtetl G 08.30.11 at 10:30 am

Reasonable accomodation for someone for a drinking disorder is to put them in charge of ADA compliance.

Heh, +1 internets for you ;)

6 wfjag 08.30.11 at 12:53 pm

And, in another EEOC success story, see:

Officer in transgender shooting had prior alcohol run-ins, Washington Examiner (08/29/11 ):

[DC cop blew .15 after he shot 5 shots from his service pistol at some transgendered folks he took an exception to. On prior alcohol problems:]

“He was arrested in 2004 for driving while intoxicated and operating while impaired, according to court records. He pleaded no contest and the charges were dropped after he completed a diversion program.

He was suspended for between 30 and 90 days in that case, according to city records.

On Christmas Day 1996, Furr and another officer were on duty when they got into a drunken argument with a mother and son. Police brass placed Furr on administrative leave and tried to fire him, but he was reinstated in 1998 after a change in police chiefs.”

7 Mannie 08.30.11 at 2:27 pm

According to the article,

He pulled a gun on one of the victims, who then reported the incident to an off-duty D.C. police officer working security at the pharmacy, charging documents said.

The CVS officer determined that Furr was an “off-duty officer, and therefore no further action was necessary,” the charging document said.

I guess a cop is allowed to terrorize people with his service weapon. The Blue Gang strikes again.

8 wfjag 08.30.11 at 4:14 pm

I think you read a different article. The one I cited included:

“There were five people in the other vehicle, police said. One person suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the arm and hand, and two others were hurt in the attack.

*** [and]

Police recovered five shell casings that matched Furr’s weapon.”

Quite a trip from multiple counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, to he was off duty, so there’s nothing to see here, just move along. And, I’m sure glad that post-Heller, DC acted to ensure that civilians don’t have realistic access to firearms. Otherwise, it could get dangerous on those streets.

9 John David Galt 08.30.11 at 5:08 pm

Having been a truck driver, I see no problem here. Existing FMCSA regulations require all drivers to be subject to random testing for both alcohol and drugs. So just test this guy more often than the average. If he keeps testing clean, then he deserves the extra chance, and if he doesn’t — in fact, if he blows as much as .001 at any firm I’ve so much as applied to drive for — then he gets fired again, for cause. Either way, no problem.

10 Mike 08.30.11 at 7:46 pm

To John David,
I may know a convicted rapist who is available to babysit your daughter. If he rapes your daughter even one time, you fire him, “for cause, either way, no problem”.

11 DensityDuck 08.31.11 at 6:56 pm

I can’t think of a better way to discourage self-reporting than to automatically and permanently ban anyone who self-reports from driving.

12 gitarcarver 08.31.11 at 10:30 pm


And I can’t think of a better way to protect a company from liability then benching an person with a substance problem from driving 45 tons down the road at 60 miles per hour.

13 Yeah 09.01.11 at 4:25 pm

To Mike,

are you seriously comparing DUI and raping a kid? That analogy does not hold. Not at all.

14 D 09.01.11 at 6:24 pm

John D.G.,
You can’t randomly test him more frequently. A random test must be truly random.

15 Ron Miller 09.02.11 at 12:41 pm

Alcoholics can reform and contribute to society. If someone has gotten their life back together and overcome that awful adversity, it is awful to discriminate against them.

Let’s say your neighbor is in a nasty divorce with an awful woman. You know she is awful. She accuses him of abusing their children.

You figures the charges are garbage. They probably are. But do you let the guy alone with your children. Of course you don’t. It is unfair to him. But who cares? Keeping your kids safe comes first.

Same holds true here, I think. Sure, it is unfortunate to discriminate. These guys are driving unbelievably lethal weapons. It is just not work the risk.

Where does all of the “greater good justifies discrimination against alcoholics” stop? I don’t know. But, for me anyway, it rolls on through requiring a company to force them to hire them in spite of their risk profiles.

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