The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced the settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit against KLLM Transport Services, Inc. (KLLM) for $56,500 and remedial relief on behalf of a qualified truck driver who was rejected for a job due to his prosthetic leg.
KLLM is a trucking company headquartered in Jackson, Miss., that offers over-the-road, regional and dedicated temperature-controlled truck services for transporting perishable commodities throughout the United States and Mexico. At the time that the charge of discrimination was filed, KLLM had approximately 1,638 employees, including 1,193 drivers, according to company information.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that KLLM violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) by its refusal to hire John Burgard, a qualified and certified truck driver, because he has a prosthetic right leg. Burgard’s right leg was amputated in 1995 due to complications related to a childhood injury. Despite his impairment, Burgard successfully completed the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Truck Driving Training School and obtained his CDL license from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
When Burgard sought employment with KLLM, he had several years of experience as a truck driver. The EEOC alleged that KLLM made no effort to determine whether Burgard could perform the essential functions of a truck driver, with or without an ADA accommodation. The EEOC said the company determined that having a prosthetic leg automatically rendered Burgard incapable of doing the job.
The ADA prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on misperceptions, assumptions or conclusions regarding an individual’s disability. The EEOC tried to reach an out-of-court settlement with the company before filing suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi (Civil Action Number 3:08cv-604-TSL-JCS).
In addition to the monetary relief, as part of the three-year consent decree KLLM agreed to implement comprehensive policies and procedures for providing reasonable accommodation to job applicants and employees with disabilities, including the assignment of a senior human resources official with the responsibility to be the company’s “ADA Coordinator”; provide training to employees about prohibited discrimination and handling requests for reasonable accommodations; and to post a notice regarding the settlement.
“We are pleased that KLLM has resolved this matter and made provisions for each of its drivers to have access to information about their rights under the ADA. The remedial relief obtained in this case sends a message to the transportation industry about how to comply with the ADA,” said Birmingham District Regional Attorney C. Emanuel Smith.
EEOC District Director Delner Franklin Thomas added, “This lawsuit reminds employers that the ADA requires considering each situation on an individual basis, rather than implementing blanket exclusionary policies that may be discriminatory. Employers must engage in an effective interactive process directed at identifying potential accommodations for individuals with disabilities, as appropriate, to ensure they have the freedom to compete on a fair and level playing field.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.
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