An Indianapolis-based trucking firm is the latest company to face the financial pinch of violating Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines. The firm, Celadon Trucking Services Inc. has just agreed to pay $200,000 to settle an EEOC pre-employment lawsuit.
The problem started when Celadon instituted compulsory medical exams for anyone applying for its truck driving positions. The results of the exams were then used to dismiss two members from a driver orientation program. The two members were dismissed because the medical exams unearthed certain disabilities.
The EEOC took issue with Celadon’s medical exams because they were instituted before a conditional offer of employment. It judged the exams to be a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). As such, it filed a lawsuit against Celadon Trucking Services Inc. in the U.S. District Court in Indianapolis.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 23 people who had previously applied to work with Celadon. These included the two who had been dismissed from the driver orientation. The suit alleged that Celadon’s compulsory medical checks were a violation of the ADA, and were thus illegal. It also alleged that the dismissal of the two drivers was unlawful.
The plaintiffs’ attorney urged the court to declare Celadon’s medical exams, and the dismissal of the drivers unlawful. It then sought compensatory damages to be paid to the plaintiffs, and also for statutory damages to be levied upon the company.
The court agreed with the plaintiff’s assessment of the situation. It said that by virtue of being required before an extension of a conditional offer of employment, Celadon’s medical tests were unlawful. Since the two drivers were dismissed on the basis of unlawful exams, their dismissal was essentially unlawful. The court ordered Celadon to pay $200,000 in compensatory damages.
The attorney for the defendant seems to have assented with the court’s decision. Although they did not make a public comment, they made no indication of desiring to appeal. Celadon agreed to pay $200,000 to settle the EEOC pre-employment lawsuit.
Celadon’s lawsuit is the latest manifestation of the EEOC’s increasing interest in organizations’ pre-employment screening operations. Over the last few years, the EEOC has stepped up the number of pre-employment lawsuits it has been filing. It has even brought lawsuits against corporate behemoths like car manufacturer BMW.
Celadon isn’t the first company to feel the financial sting of the EEOC’s pre-employment lawsuits either. Early this year, PAM Transport Inc. – an Arkansas-based trucking firm – had to pay $477,399 to settle a similar lawsuit. Just like Celadon, PAM’s medical tests were found to violate the ADA, click here to read more.
The bottom line is that the EEOC is stepping up its efforts to hold to account organizations which violate its pre-employment guidelines. Given the commission’s truck record of filing thousands of lawsuits annually, this can only mean that many employers may end up in the dock. Those who want to avoid the interruption, negative PR and possible financial consequences of EEOC lawsuits need to work on getting their act together.
The EEOC has detailed guidelines which organizations can use in order to avoid running afoul of its pre-employment requirements. Any organization serious about avoiding the Commission’s pre-employment lawsuits should study these guidelines carefully. A copy of the guidelines can be viewed here.