JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) – CRST Trucking has petitioned the Florida federal court in Jacksonville to either transfer or dismiss a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for allegations of failing to accommodate a job candidate who used a service dog.
The trucking company asked the court in June to dismiss the lawsuit, alleging it was filed in the wrong court. In the alternative, the court should transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division, where its headquarters are located, the company says.
The EEOC brought the lawsuit earlier this year against CRST on behalf of job candidate Leon Laferriere. Laferriere applied for a truck driving position with CRST in Fort Myers, Florida. He was accepted for a drivers’ certification course and, prior to beginning the program, allegedly informed CRST of his disabilities and the use of a service dog.
The company did not address the merits of the EEOC's claim in its first motion - only attacking the venue in which it was filed.
"(T)he events giving rise to the EEOC’s (Americans with Disabilities Act) claim did not occur in this District," attorneys for the company wrote.
At the time of his application to the company, in 2015, Laferriere did not have his truck driver's license. But the company, known as Expedited, signed him to a pre-employment agreement that provided for his training.
As a veteran suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Laferriere is accompanied by a service dog - a fact that Expedited was informed of. The dog helps with nightmares and anxiety.
Laferriere received his Commercial Driver's License and planned to team with his brother during a month-long training period, as Expedited utilizes a two-driver system.
However, Laferriere's brother decided not to work for Expedited. The company provided Laferriere with a bus ticket home and ultimately did not hire him.
The EEOC alleges CRST denied Laferriere advancement to employment because of its “no pet policy,” thus violating the ADA.
Specifically, the EEOC claims the trucking company violated the ADA by failing to accommodate Laferriere’s needs by not allowing him to have an emotional support dog with him on the truck and discriminated against him because of his PTSD.
Expedited alleges that Laferriere applied to its company, but “was not an experienced truck driver and did not have a CDL (commercial driver's license)." He attended a driving school not affiliated with Expedited in Jacksonville, where he obtained his CDL.
Edpedited alleges that the EEOC cannot show that Florida is a proper venue for the case, citing all employment decisions made about Laferriere occurred at its headquarters in Iowa and that is where his employment records are located. Also, if he had been hired, LaFerriere would have worked out of CRST’s Oklahoma terminal.
Additionally, Laferriere filed his charge with the EEOC office in Milwaukee. The agency filed its response to the venue issue in July.
"The Middle District of Florida is an appropriate venue because (1) the unlawful employment practices at issue occurred here (at least in part); (2) relevant employment records are maintained in this State, including records maintained by the driver training school and by Laferriere’s treating doctors; and (3) the affected person (Laferriere) would have likely worked in this district, among others," the response says.
The EEOC seeks back pay, punitive and compensatory damages for Laferriere.