Trucking Company Fired Two Long-Term Employees Who Exhausted Medical Leave
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Groendyke Transport, a trucking company formerly known as McKenzie Tank Lines, violated federal law when it applied its inflexible leave policy to fire two long-term employees with disabilities who had exhausted all medical leave, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, the two employees were terminated on July 26, 2017 by McKenzie Tank Lines, now owned by Groendyke Transport, Inc., one of the largest tank truck carriers in the United States, whose headquarters is in Enid, Okla. The two employees had worked for McKenzie for decades. One employee, a mechanic in Pensacola, Fla., required leave to address a staph infection that caused nerve damage and required surgery. The other, a truck driver in Houston, required leave due to complications from pneumonia. Both were at home recovering when McKenzie Tank fired them. Both employees would have been able to return to work after just a few more weeks of leave. Instead, the company rigidly applied its leave policy, which did not allow leave beyond the 12-week period provided under the FMLA.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities when they can perform the essential functions of their job with a reasonable accommodation, such as additional medical leave. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Groendyke Transport, Inc. a/k/a McKenzie Property Management, Inc., f/n/a McKenzie Tank Lines, case number 3:19-cv-02830-RV-EMT) in U.S. District Court for Northern District of Florida after the EEOC's Mobile Local Office completed an investigation and first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.
"The ADA does not permit an employer to rigidly use an internal leave policy to terminate employees whose disability requires them to take additional medical leave," said EEOC Birmingham District Director Bradley Anderson. "Employers are obligated to make exceptions to leave policies and provide additional medical leave as a form of reasonable accommodation unless doing so would result in an undue hardship on the employer."
Marsha Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District, said, "Federal law requires employers to make a genuine effort to engage in an interactive process to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities - such as modifications to inflexible leave policies."
The EEOC's Birmingham District Office has jurisdiction over Alabama, Mississippi (all but 17 counties in the northern part of Mississippi), and the Florida Panhandle.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.