Having and abiding by correct non-discrimination policies could be worth tens of millions of dollars. On September 1, 2023, a jury awarded a $36 million verdict against a Nebraska trucking company in EEOC v. Werner Enterprises for failure to hire and failure to accommodate. In 2016, Victor Robinson (“Robinson”), a deaf man, applied for a truck driver job at Werner Enterprises, LLC (“Werner”) after completing his training at a driving school owned by Werner, obtaining his commercial driver’s license (“CDL”), and an exemption from the hearing regulation from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Werner, however, told Robinson that they would not hire him because he was deaf. Further investigation showed Werner repeatedly denied employment opportunities to deaf individuals.
The verdict highlights the extreme cost of non-compliance for employers. Following a four-day trial, the jury awarded $75,000 in compensatory damages for Robinson’s “emotional pain, suffering… [and] inconvenience,” but also awarded $36 million for Werner’s “malice or reckless indifference” in discriminating against Robinson.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Specifically, the ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified employees with a disability. Qualified employees are able to complete the essential duties of their position with or without reasonable accommodation. Additionally, the ADA prohibits employers from refusing to hire a qualified applicant with a disability. A qualified applicant satisfies job requirements such as education, experience, skills, and licenses, and is able to perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, or in the case of Werner, millions of pounds of cure. Employers should take care to review their hiring and reasonable accommodation policies and procedures to ensure they are up-to-date and in full compliance and, perhaps above all, make certain their managers have the training they need to abide by the law and stay out of very costly trouble.
If you have any questions regarding your EEO practices, please do not hesitate to reach out to any member of Gardner Skelton’s healthcare team.