Legal Newsline

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

EEOC's case over trucker allegedly not hired because of service dog transferred

By Elizabeth Alt | Feb 15, 2018

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Legal Newsline) – A Florida federal judge has denied CRST International’s motion to dismiss a man’s lawsuit alleging it did not hire him as a truck driver because he has a service dog to help cope with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues.

Justice Timothy Corrigan's November opinion instead granted CRST’s motion to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa-Cedar Rapids Division, stating that “The EEOC has neither alleged nor produced any evidence suggesting that the practice of denying (Leon) Laferriere the position in Oklahoma City took place in the Middle District of Florida.”

Laferriere alleged he was turned down for a truck driving job because he uses a service dog.

Laferriere applied for a truck driving position with CRST in 2015 and informed it of his service dog, which his psychiatrist prescribed for emotional support because of his PTSD diagnosis. CRST, which puts two drivers together during training, told Laferriere that it could not force his trainer to agree to his dog living in the truck.

However, Laferriere’s brother, an experienced truck driver, decided to work for CRST and was slated to be his trainer for the two-month training period.

Laferriere's brother then decided not to work for CRST, and CRST told him it was considering other options. Laferriere allegedly was told shortly thereafter that he was not going to be hired.

In June, CRST filed a motion to dismiss the suit or transfer venue if the court did not find dismissal appropriate. 

CRST stated that Laferriere's suit should be dismissed because he filed the lawsuit in Florida, where he lives, instead of where the alleged discrimination took place, in Iowa. The EEOC and Laferriere claimed that he had the right to file suit in his home state because that is where he most likely would have been working and where he suffered the effects of the alleged discrimination.

The EEOC referenced other disability discrimination cases in attempt to persuade the court that Laferriere should be allowed to continue in the Jacksonville court, which the court found “unpersuasive.”

Noting that this was an area that had not been widely ruled on, Corrigan stated that the EEOC was not specific and in its complaint only stated that the discrimination acts took place in both Iowa and Florida.

“No other allegations specify the location in which the acts occurred, leaving it to the court to piece together the locations from exhibits submitted in connection with the prior motion to dismiss and other supporting exhibits," the judge ruled.

“The interests of justice generally require transferring an action brought in an improper venue instead of dismissing it.”

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U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Jacksonville Division