U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the following announcement on Oct. 1.
The EEOC announced that it concurrently filed a lawsuit and a resolution of that suit against Transport America, a Minnesota-based trucking company. The EEOC charged that Transport America required a truck driver to pay a fee to have a service dog in his truck, although the animal was required as a reasonable accommodation for the driver's anxiety.
"This is a timely reminder to employers that it isn't enough that they allow service animals to accompany qualified individuals with disabilities," said Julianne Bowman, district director for the EEOC's Chicago District. "They also must avoid placing any burden on the employee with a disability that is not placed on employees who do not need the accommodation or who do not have animals accompany them."
Charging an employee more to have a service animal as a reasonable accommodation can, under certain circumstances, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit, EEOC v. Transport America., Case No. 0:19-cv-02300, in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the EEOC's conciliation process.
Transport America already permitted drivers to have dogs accompany drivers. Therefore, in the consent decree settling the suit, the parties concentrated on making sure that the company's existing policies reflect the requirements when the dog is a qualified service animal. The resolution of the lawsuit requires that Transport America pay $22,500 to the trucker, and that it revise its policies to permit qualified employees with disabilities to use a service animal without any additional surcharge or cost to the employee.
Greg Gochanour, regional attorney for the Chicago district, added, "Employers must realize that they can't place unjustified restrictions on an employee's rights under federal law to have a service animal with him, regardless of what the company's policies say. We are pleased with Transport America's cooperation in reaching this agreement and removing the barriers in the way of drivers with disabilities."
The EEOC's Minneapolis Area Office is part of the agency's Chicago District Office, which is responsible for investigating charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota.
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