National trucking company JBS Carriers Inc. (JBS) will pay $250,000 and furnish other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced on April 4.
According to the lawsuit, JBS contracted with a third party, ErgoMed Work Systems, Inc., to administer pre-employment screening of applicants for truck driving jobs. The EEOC alleged that this process unlawfully screened out people with disabilities who were qualified for the jobs.
JBS Carriers is the transportation affiliate of multinational meat processor JBS USA. JBS Carriers is based in Greeley, CO and operates throughout the U.S., with terminals in Greeley; Green Bay, WI.; Hyrum, UT; Cactus, TX; Pittsburg, TX; and Oakwood, GA.
The screening in question subjected all applicants to a medical history questionnaire, a physical examination, and nine physical abilities tests. If an applicant failed any one of the tests or was prevented by ErgoMed from taking the tests based on information obtained from the questionnaire or during the physical examination, ErgoMed sent JBS a negative job recommendation. The lawsuit alleged that JBS then withdrew conditional job offers to applicants based on ErgoMed's recommendations.
For example, the EEOC alleged in its suit that one applicant, Cindy Divine, had over 30 years of commercial truck driving experience. After JBS offered her a job, Divine traveled to Greeley to complete the screening. According to the lawsuit, ErgoMed concluded that she had disqualifying issues with her shoulders, even though Divine told ErgoMed's examiner that she was only sore from carrying heavy luggage from the bus stop to her motel. ErgoMed prevented Divine from completing its physical tests and provided a negative recommendation to JBS, which then withdrew her offer.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination based on disability and makes it illegal for employers to impose standards or criteria for job applicants that have the effect of discriminating based on disability or that screen out individuals with disabilities.
In its suit, the EEOC charged that the pre-employment screening required by JBS and administered by ErgoMed violated the ADA because it excluded qualified applicants with disabilities.
The EEOC also alleged that by relying on ErgoMed's screening without giving individual consideration to job applicants, JBS discriminated against job applicants based on disability and failed to provide reasonable accommodations.
The settlement payment of $250,000 will be distributed among five individuals who were adversely impacted by the ErgoMed screening and who participated in the EEOC's investigation.
After years of using the ErgoMed screen, JBS halted the practice, and now only requires job applicants to obtain the Department of Transportation (DOT) medical certification necessary to be a licensed commercial truck driver.
Under the consent decree settling the EEOC's lawsuit, JBS will not contract with ErgoMed for three years and will not implement any physical or medical screening for conditional hires apart from the DOT medical certification and a urine analysis.
JBS will also provide training on the ADA to its employees, appoint an ADA coordinator, review and revise its ADA policies, and report semi-annually to the EEOC on how the company has addressed reports of disability discrimination and requests for accommodation.
"We applaud the efforts by JBS to reach an early resolution with the EEOC that provides both meaningful monetary relief and important equitable relief," said regional attorney Mary Jo O'Neill of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office. "The company's willingness to cease the screening practices at issue shows a commitment to ensuring that all individuals qualified for a job have a level playing field and an equal opportunity for hiring."