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Press Release 08-05-2021

Professional Transportation, Inc. to Pay $60,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

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

BLUEFIELD, W.V. – Professional Transportation, Inc. (PTI), a transportation company headquartered in Evansville, Ind., with operations throughout the United States, will pay $60,000 to an individual job applicant who was denied part-time employment and furnish significant non-monetary relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in February 2019 a job applicant recovering from opioid addiction sought a position as a van driver at PTI’s Bluefield, W.V., branch, and PTI subsequently made a conditional job offer to her. However, PTI later rescinded its offer after the job applicant informed the company that she was receiving Suboxone treatment, the EEOC said. A PTI human resources official reviewed information about the possible safety related side effects of Suboxone and then disqualified the job applicant based on her Suboxone treatment without considering whether she actually experiences any side effects from the medication. The job applicant does not experience side effects from Suboxone, and she informed the company that her medication did not affect her driving ability, the EEOC said.  

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) 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 when the worker is performing the job.

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 pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  The EEOC and PTI subsequently agreed to early settlement of the lawsuit without any federal court adjudication of liability issues in the case.

In addition to paying monetary relief to the individual job applicant, the consent decree settling the suit, approved by the federal court, enjoins future violations of the ADA regarding workers with substance use disorders such as opioid addiction or who are receiving medical treatment for such disorders. The decree also requires that PTI implement measures designed to prevent workplace disability discrimination against such workers, including policies and procedures for individualized safety evaluations of workers receiving medication-assisted treatments such as Suboxone or methadone that require interactive communication with the workers, consultation with their health care providers, and reliance on the best available medical and scientific evidence. The decree also provides for related training requirements, appointment of an internal company decree compliance monitor, and reporting to the EEOC.

“We are very pleased that PTI worked collaboratively with EEOC to craft a comprehensive settlement that will benefit PTI’s employees and job applicants,” said EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “In addition to providing monetary compensation to one worker, the extensive policies and procedures that PTI agreed to implement are designed to promote disability inclusiveness through fair and accurate safety assessments of PTI’s employees and workers seeking employment at the company. Implementing such measures is not only a smart business decision but also reflects a genuine commitment to ADA compliance.”

EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie R. Williamson added, “As our nation continues to grapple with a tragic pandemic, we should remember that there is another public health crisis — opioid addiction — that began long before the pandemic and has only worsened. Gainful employment is an important factor in addiction recovery, and those workers need our support, including strong enforcement of ADA protections in the workplace. The EEOC remains committed to ensuring that workers receiving treatment for substance use disorders can earn a living and benefit from the sense of dignity and self-worth that comes from a job well done.”

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) and How Health Care Providers Can Help Current and Former Patients Who Have Used Opioids Stay Employed (issued August 5, 2020).

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

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, Pennsylvania, Maryland, 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 advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.