Posts Tagged ‘safety’

Agreeing with EEOC, jury awards demoted boozing truck driver $119,000

In 2009, a driver with Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., admitted to the company that he had an alcohol problem. The company told him that it would no longer allow him to drive heavy trucks for the firm. (It said it offered him a less safety-sensitive, but also significantly lower-paying, dock job.) The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stepped in and sued on his behalf under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). It conceded that Old Dominion could (and indeed had to) take the keys away from a heavy truck driver it found to be currently drinking on the job, but contended it had failed in its obligation to “make an individualized determination as to whether the driver could return to driving and provide a reasonable accommodation of leave to its drivers for them to obtain treatment.” Of course backsliding and remission are common following rehab treatment, which means as a group drivers with known past alcohol problems will have a higher risk profile than drivers without. That is why at an earlier stage of the case I asked, “Are we really required to take chances with 18-wheelers on the highway?”

Now we know the answer: Yes. A jury agreed with the EEOC and awarded the driver $119,000 in back pay.

P.S. On the other hand, upholding the decision of a federal district court in Georgia, the Eleventh Circuit has ruled that Crete Carrier Corp. did not violate the ADA when it declined to employ a truck driver with a “current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism,” a bar to driving under DOT regulations.

“Liability Concerns Prompt Some Cities to Limit Sledding”

Sad on multiple levels [AP]:

[Omaha assistant city attorney Tom] Mumgaard said courts in Nebraska have decided cities must protect people, even if they make poor choices.

Most people realize that cities must restrict potentially dangerous activities to protect people and guard against costly lawsuits, said Kenneth Bond, a New York lawyer who represents local governments. In the past, people might have embraced a Wild West philosophy of individuals being solely responsible for their actions, but now they expect government to prevent dangers whenever possible.

I’d say there’s more than one kind of downhill toboggan momentum we might want to worry about. Commentary: Lenore Skenazy (“If we believe that ‘whenever possible’ = ‘imagining all possible dangers, no matter how remote, and actively preventing them all, all the time, even by drastic decrees,’ then we get a society that puts 100% safety above any other cause, including fairness, convenience, exercise, rationality — and delight”); Ira Stoll (“This is the sort of story that you’d think might build some political support for tort reform.”).

Holiday lights get much safer; CPSC pushes ahead with regs anyway

According to an account in The Hill last month, “the number of deaths caused by Christmas lights has declined to about one person each year from a high of 13 people each year in the early 1990s.” That might seem like an encouraging record, leaving what might seem a low residual risk considering the millions of households that decorate with seasonal lights, but the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is moving ahead with expensive regulations anyway [Hannah Yang, Heartland]. I’m quoted:

The CPSC’s filing notes that less than one percent of holiday lights affected by the rule have been determined to contain defects, as “voluntary conformance” with industry standards is nearly universal.

Walter Olson, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute’s Center for Constitutional Studies, criticized the new rules against cheery Christmas lights, explaining “the CPSC—like other agencies—has an interest in justifying its own existence.”…

“They’ve become somewhat truculent from all the criticism,” he said, adding that CPSC actions and regulations often seem to be intended to send a message of “‘see how much you laugh when we send our lawyers after you.’ …As we know from other CPSC regulations, it can be quite expensive to comply with a CPSC rule, even if your product is not in violation.”

Earlier on holiday lights here and here.

Excessive zeal for bus passengers’ safety discouraged

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has extracted an $85,000 settlement and other relief from Atchison Transportation Services, Inc., of South Carolina on charges that one of its managers terminated two motorcoach drivers who were 75 and 76 years old respectively. As with disability discrimination, federal law on age discrimination generally requires that termination be based only on cause-based individualized determinations of unfitness; in practice, an employer may be well advised to premise such determinations only on evidence that would stand up under legal scrutiny as objective, such as, for example, a driver’s loss of license or involvement in an accident. [EEOC press release, h/t Roger Clegg]

May 30 roundup

Great moments in union contracts

Following up on the sensational Blue Line crash at the Chicago Transit Authority’s O’Hare Airport terminus: “The CTA’s contract with the Amalgamated Transit Union authorizes the agency to fire rail operators who have had two serious safety violations in a short period of time [emphasis added], and officials said the two incidents when [Brittney] Haywood dozed off qualify her for termination.” Falling asleep just once at the controls of a train wasn’t enough! [CBS Chicago] More: Bill Zeiser, American Spectator.

Now online: “Quit Bubble-Wrapping Our Kids!”


Lenore Skenazy’s incredibly funny talk last Thursday, with me commenting and moderating (and even at one point giving my impression of a 3-year-old losing a cookie), is now online. Several people have told me this was one of the most entertaining and illuminating Cato talks they’ve seen.

Lenore’s blog is Free-Range Kids and you can buy her book of the same name here. Some links on topics that came up in my remarks: Harvard researchers call for yanking obese kids out of their homes; authorities in Queensland, Australia, plan use of satellite data to spy out noncompliance with pool safety rules; courts reward helicopter parents in custody battles; charges dropped against mom who left toddler sleeping in car while she dropped coins in Salvation Army bucket; proposals to cut kids’ food into small bits and discontinue things like peanuts and marshmallows entirely; authorities snatch kids from homes after parents busted with small quantities of pot.

P.S. Direct video link here (h/t comments).