Posts Tagged ‘essential functions of position’

I have previously blogged that alcoholism is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act in many circumstances. Old Dominion Freight Line has now found that out based upon an EEOC lawsuit filed against it.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit this week arguing that Old Dominion Freight Line discriminated against Charles Grams by stripping him of his position and offering him a demotion even if he completed a substance abuse counseling program.

The EEOC says alcoholism is a recognized disability under the ADA and that the company violated the law with its policy that bans any driver who admits alcohol abuse from driving again. The EEOC wants the company to reinstate Grams and another affected driver to their previous positions and provide them with back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and compensation for lost benefits. The EEOC is also seeking to block the company’s alcohol-related policy.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Grams, who had been with Old Dominion for five years without incident, informed the company in June 2009 that he believed he had an alcohol problem. The company suspended him from his driving position, which paid him nearly $22 per hour, including benefits. In compliance with U.S. Transportation Department regulations, Grams met with a substance abuse professional who notified the company that Grams would participate in an outpatient treatment program and could return to work. But Old Dominion told Grams that he wouldn’t be allowed to drive again for the company and instead offered him a part-time position as a dock worker as soon as it became available. The position paid $12 per hour without benefits, the lawsuit alleges.

The EEOC contends that the company’s actions deprived Grams and other affected drivers of “equal employment opportunities and otherwise adversely affect their status as employees, in violation of the ADA.”
“Grams is a qualified individual with a disability under ADA … who can perform the essential functions of a driving position,” the suit says, adding that Grams and other employees wouldn’t need treatment to perform non-driving duties.

If you believe you have been subjected to discrimination in the workplace or had your job terminated based upon a disability, including alcoholism or substance abuse, feel free to call Scott Behren and the Behren Law Firm for a free consultation about your legal rights.

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I have blogged on many occasions about the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA. This statute and the amendments to it prevent an employer from discriminating against an employee due to an actual or perceived disability. This act not only includes termination or demotions, but also requires that an employer provide accommodations to those with qualified disabilities. For many years, the scope of this act was severely limited due to several rulings of the U.S. Supreme Court, but due to recent amendents by Congress, the scope of this act has now been expanded to include many different kinds of disabilities.

It seems the most recent disability that will now be covered under the ADA is obesity. The EEOC has recently filed suit against Resources for Human Development (RHD), a national non-profit human services organization, claiming it fired a child-care worker because she was obese. The agency claims the firing violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The case involves Lisa Harrison, who worked with young children of mothers undergoing treatment for addiction in an RHD-run facility in suburban New Orleans.

The EEOC alleges that Harrison was fired because RHD perceived Harrison as being substantially limited in a number of major life activities, including walking, because of her weight, the EEOC claims. But the agency says Harrison was able to perform all of the essential functions of her position. Before the EEOC filed suit, Harrison died. Her private interests will be represented in the lawsuit by her estate.

Up to this point, many courts have ruled that obesity does not fall into the category of disability under the ADA.
But with the passage of the ADA Amendments Act, the definition of disability was substantially widened.

The lawsuit is EEOC v. Resources for Human Development, U.S. Dist. Crt., E.D. LA, No. 2:10-cv-03322.

If you believe you have been the victim of workplace discrimination due to obesity or the perception that you are obese, you should contact an employment lawyer to discuss your possible legal options.

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