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Are alcoholics able to be truck drivers?

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The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has sued Old Dominion Freight Line (ODFL) for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act for its treatment of a truck driver who self-reported a problem with alcohol.

The EEOC claims that ODFL violated the law when it removed the five-year employee from a permanent driving position.

The suit, filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, seeks reinstatement to the driving position for the employee as well as monetary damages.

“The ADA mandates that persons with disabilities have an equal opportunity to achieve in the workplace. Old Dominion’s policy and practice of never returning an employee who self-reports an alcohol problem to a driving position violates that law,” said Katharine Kores, director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, whose jurisdiction includes Arkansas. “While the EEOC agrees that an employer’s concern regarding safety on our highways is a legitimate issue, an employer can both ensure safety and comply with the ADA.”

According to EEOC, in late 2009, the unnamed driver reported that he believed he had an alcohol problem to ODFL in Fort Smith, AR. The company immediately removed him from his driving responsibilities and referred him for substance abuse counseling. It was then, EEOC contends, that ODFL informed the driver he would never be allowed to return to the road.

EEOC claims that because alcoholism is a recognized disability under the ADA, ODFL’s treatment of the driver violated both ADA and the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendment Act of 2008 “by conditioning reassignment to non-driving positions on the enrollment in an alcohol treatment program.”

EEOC is also claiming that the company’s “policy banning a driver who self-reports alcohol abuse from ever driving again also violates the ADA.”

During its investigation, EEOC said it also found another driver who received similar treatment from ODFL, and is seeking damages for that driver as well in the suit.

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Brian Straight

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Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations declined to 27% in 2011from a high of 34% in 1990. While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26% of the STEM workforce in 2011.

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