Transport America was fined $22,500 and they will need to make changes to their policy on service animals. The EEOC states that the trucking company made an employee pay a fee in order to have their service animal accompany them in their truck. This happened despite the fact that the service dog was a reasonable way to accommodate the driver’s anxiety.
Employers, Be Aware…
The EEOC released a statement urging employers to be aware of two things. First, companies must allow employees with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals. Second, they can’t make something more difficult for an employee with a disability who needs an accommodation than it is for an employee who doesn’t need that accommodation.
What does that mean, exactly?
Say one employee doesn’t have a disability so they don’t need a service dog. According to Transport America’s old policy, this also means they don’t have to pay a fee to have that service animal.
Another employee does have a disability and needs a service dog. This means they have to pay the company’s fee, using money from their own pocket in order to be able to function at a similar level to the employee who doesn’t have a disability and doesn’t need a service animal.
Policies like the one that was in place at Transport America can even violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if certain conditions are met. This, in turn, could lead to a costly lawsuit.
Willing to Cooperate?
Transport America cooperated with the EEOC in reaching an agreement. Conflict is more common than you might think, so it is refreshing to hear when companies are willing to work to resolve it. Transport America must have people on their team who value the importance of peacebuilding and have good conflict resolution skills.