DALLAS – Stevens Transport, the largest refrigerated trucking company in Texas, will pay $75,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Monday.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, an applicant applied to work for Stevens Transport in the Mesquite, Texas facility in August 2019. He was contacted by a recruiter and brought in for interview. During his interview, the applicant was asked whether a gap in his employment reflected on his resume was related to a medical reason.
The applicant disclosed that he had been diagnosed with hypertension for which he was required to use some medical leave while working at a previous job. The EEOC’s suit alleged that the recruiter later told the applicant that he would not be hired by Stevens Transport because he utilized medical leave with his prior employer.
The EEOC alleged that Stevens Transport’s conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and limits an employer’s ability to make disability-related inquiries. The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 3:21-CV-2272, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The three-year consent decree settling the suit, entered by U.S. District Judge Sidney A. Fitzwater on March 14 prohibits future discrimination and, in addition to the monetary relief, requires Stevens Transport to provide annual training to employees in its corporate recruiting department. The training will cover the requirements and prohibitions of the ADA, as well as Stevens Transport’s procedure for reporting discrimination complaints. The training will include a specific discussion about legality of disability-related questions at each stage of the hiring process, including that an applicant may not be asked about their use of medical leave during the recruitment and interview process.
“Employers may not ask job applicants questions about prior medical leave or health conditions before a job offer is made,” Alexa Lang, trial attorney in the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, said. “The mere fact that someone may have used medical leave when with a prior employer is not an appropriate criterion to use in determining whether to interview or hire an applicant for a position.”
“Job seekers should not have to fear that disclosing a past medical condition will cost them a job opportunity when they are otherwise considered good candidates for hire.” Robert Canino, regional attorney for the Dallas District Office, said. “Preventing pre-offer screening from the workplace based on mere suppositions and generalizations about an individual’s medical history is at the heart of the ADA.”
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