Press Release 11-16-2020

EEOC Sues Professional Transportation for Disability Discrimination

Transportation Company Refused to Hire Worker Because of Medical Treatment for Opioid Addiction, Federal Agency Charges

BLUEFIELD, W.V. – Professional Transportation, Inc. (PTI), a transportation company head­quartered in Evansville, Ind., with operations throughout the United States, violated federal law by refusing to hire a job applicant because of her opioid addiction disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, a woman under Suboxone treatment for opioid addiction applied for a driver position at PTI’s Bluefield, W.V., branch. After making a conditional offer, PTI told the applicant that she had to pass a pre-employment drug test. In advance of her drug test, the applicant informed PTI that she was receiving Suboxone treatment but that her medication did not affect her driving ability, the EEOC said.

In response, a PTI human resources official looked up public information on possible safety related side effects of Suboxone. Based on its research and without considering whether the applicant actually experienced any side effects from Suboxone, PTI withdrew its job offer. The EEOC said that the applicant does not experience side effects from Suboxone and that PTI’s decision to reject her based on her prescribed medical treatment was illegal employment discrimination. 

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination in employment, including disqualifying a disabled worker from a job because the worker is receiving medical treatment for a disability, such as use of prescribed medication, when such treatment does not create a significant risk of substantial harm to the health or safety of the worker or others. The EEOC filed suit (U.S. EEOC v. Professional Transportation, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:20-cv-00745) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia (Bluefield), after first attempting to reach a prelitigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Our nation’s opioid addiction crisis has left many workers under medication-assisted treatments like Suboxone and methadone,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence. “Employers must respect the ADA rights of such workers by not basing employment decisions on unfounded assumptions about safety risks. The EEOC will continue to protect the rights of workers recovering from opioid addiction.”

Jamie Williamson of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District office added, “We will continue to vigorously enforce the ADA to prevent employers from making discriminatory employment decisions like this, based on stereotypes, myths and fears rather than accurate assessments of a person’s abilities to safely perform the job.”

The lawsuit was commenced by the EEOC’s Pittsburgh Area Office, one of four component offices of the agency’s Philadelphia District Office. The Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC has recently published several technical assistance documents to inform the public about the rights of workers, obligations of employers, and the role of health care providers concerning worker opioid addiction and their medical use of opioids: Use of Codeine, Oxycodone, and Other Opioids: Information for Employees (issued August 5, 2020); How Health Care Providers Can Help Current and Former Patients Who Have Used Opioids Stay Employed (issued August 5, 2020).

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.