FleetPride must face driver’s Americans with Disabilities Act lawsuit

November 2, 2022

Tyson Fisher

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A trucker for FleetPride will have his day in court regarding allegations of the company violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A federal court in the Northern District of Illinois denied FleetPride’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by former driver Brian Gray. Gray accuses the company of wrongfully firing him after failing to accommodate his disability and retaliating against him for complaining about the discrimination.

According to court documents, Gray began driving for Midway Truck Parts in March 1999. Gray maintained his employment after Midway Truck Parks was acquired by FleetPride in 2011. In December 2016, he was injured on the job while making a delivery.

Gray provided the company a letter from his physician allowing him to return to work with restrictions about five months later. The letter stated that Gray could return to work on May 22, 2017, “with permanent restrictions that he should be precluded from lifting more than 35 pounds and limited to pushing and pulling at 150 pounds,” according to court documents.

FleetPride terminated Gray’s employment on May 22, 2017. The company told Gray, “since your restrictions are permanent, unfortunately we are unable to accommodate.”

Gray subsequently filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging disparate treatment related to his firing and failure to accommodate his disability. However, FleetPride denies those allegations, counterclaiming that Gray:

  • Has not sufficiently alleged that he is actually disabled under the terms of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Failed to plausibly allege that the company regarded his disabled.
  • Failed to allege that the company had open positions for which he was qualified.
  • Has not alleged that he requested a reasonable accommodation.
  • Has not identified any reasonable accommodation that would have allowed him to perform the essential functions of his job as a driver.

However, the court disagreed with FleetPride’s counterclaims.

Regarding FleetPride’s claims of disability, the court referred to Gray’s note from his physician limiting lifting, pushing and pulling certain weights. The court concluded “that Gray adequately pleads that his physical condition substantially affects his ability to lift and reach and qualifies as a disability under the ADA.”

Specifically, 42 U.S.C. § 12102(4)(C) states that “an impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability.” In this case, “lifting” and “reaching” are considered major life activities.

Addressing claims of reasonable accommodations, the court cited the company’s response to Gray’s request and subsequent termination with no further action or communication.

“These allegations plausibly reflect that FleetPride did not communicate with Gray and attempt to ascertain whether it had a position available for which Gray might have been qualified, which may amount to a refusal to engage in the interactive process,” the court argues.

Furthermore, since he has been with the company since 1999, Gray argued that he is qualified to perform a variety of other positions at FleetPride. He alleged that with 280 branches, 52 service centers, and five distribution centers covering 46 states, FleetPride must have had a position that would not require him to lift over 35 pounds with a restriction on pushing and pushing at 150 pounds. Considering he was terminated two days after FleetPride learned of his permanent restrictions, Gray argued that the company made no attempt to accommodate his disability and he was denied the opportunity to apply for any other position.

Gray will have the burden in later proceedings to demonstrate that a vacant position existed. However, he is not required to provide that evidence when arguing against the motion to dismiss. LL

 

WWWilliams

Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.