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PRESS RELEASE
8-16-11

Old Dominion Freight Line Sued By EEOC For Disability Discrimination

Trucking Company Should Have Complied with ADA while Assuring Safety, Not Permanently Sideline Driver Who Self-Reported Alcohol Abuse

LITTLE  ROCK, Ark. – Old Dominion Freight Line, Inc., a  trucking company with a service center in Fort Smith, Ark., violated federal  law by discriminating against at least one truck driver because of  self-reported alcohol abuse, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. The company should have met its legal  obligation to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act while assuring  safety, rather than permanently sidelining self-reporting drivers, the EEOC  contended.

According to the EEOC’s suit (Civil  Action No. 2:11-CV-02153-PKH in U.S. District Court for the Western District of  Arkansas), the driver at the Fort    Smith location had worked for the company for five  years without incident. In late June  2009, the employee reported to the company that he believed he had an alcohol  problem. Under U.S. Department of Transportation  regulations, the employer suspended the employee from his driving position and  referred him for substance abuse counseling.  However, the employer also informed the driver that the employer would  never return him to a driving position, even upon the successful completion of  a counseling program. During the  investigation, the EEOC discovered drivers at other service centers whom the  employer had allegedly subjected to similar treatment.

Alcoholism is a recognized  disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and disability  discrimination violates this federal law.  The EEOC said that the company violated both the ADA and the Americans With Disabilities Act  Amendment Act of 2008 (ADAAA) by conditioning reassignment to non-driving  positions on the enrollment in an alcohol treatment program. In addition, the EEOC argued that Old  Dominion’s policy that bans any driver who self-reports alcohol abuse from ever  driving again also violates the ADA.

The EEOC filed suit after first  attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.  The suit seeks monetary relief in the form of reinstatement to a driving  position, back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, compensation for lost  benefits for two drivers, and an injunction against future discrimination.

“The ADA mandates that persons with disabilities have an  equal opportunity to achieve in the workplace.  Old Dominion’s policy and practice of never returning an employee who  self-reports an alcohol problem to a driving position violates that law,”  said Katharine Kores, director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, whose  jurisdiction includes Arkansas. “While the EEOC agrees that an employer’s  concern regarding safety on our highways is a legitimate issue, an employer can  both ensure safety and comply with the ADA.”

Old Dominion is based in Thomasville,  N.C., and hauls general commodity  freight using a network of service centers.  Old Dominion has 211 service centers across the country, one of which is  in Fort Smith.

The EEOC enforces  federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, including disability and  retaliation discrimination. Further  information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.