- Hirschbach Motor Lines, a national trucking company, has agreed to pay $40,000 to settle allegations that it improperly discriminated against three job applicants by requiring them to take a back assessment that required them, among other things, to balance and stand on one leg, touch their toes while standing on one leg and crawl.
- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued the company for alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC said the back assessment was used to screen out job candidates with pre-existing injuries or conditions who had received conditional offers of employment, even though they had received Department of Transportation medical certifications that authorized them to drive trucks.
- As part of the settlement, in addition to the monetary relief, Hirschbach will use a narrower range of physical tests going forward and will discontinue its 100%-healed policy. Hirschbach will also create a reasonable accommodation policy and provide training on it, as well as report semi-annually to the EEOC on its compliance efforts.
The EEOC has said that an employer will violate the ADA if it requires an employee with a disability to have no medical restrictions — to be "100%" healed or recovered — if the employee can perform his or her job with or without reasonable accommodation, unless the employer can show that providing the needed accommodations would cause an undue hardship.
Similarly, according to the EEOC, an employer will violate the ADA if it claims an employee with medical restrictions poses a safety risk but is unable to show that the person is a "direct threat," meaning that the person poses a "significant risk of substantial harm" to self or others. If an employee's disability does pose a direct threat, an employer must consider whether reasonable accommodation will remove or reduce the threat, the EEOC said.
There are limits to how far an employer must go to accommodate a worker's disability. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that UPS did not have to create a new position for a worker returning from surgery. The worker was not a "qualified individual" under the ADA because his numerous restrictions, including cognitive limitations, precluded him from performing the core requirements of his job.