By CHARLES WILSON
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The federal government is suing international trucking company Celadon, claiming it illegally forced job applicants to take medical examinations and didn’t hire those it perceived as being disabled.
Paul Will, Celadon’s president and CEO, said Thursday that the company only rejected drivers who didn’t meet U.S. Department of Transportation standards, though the lawsuit claims the company did.
“There’s a driver shortage,” said Will. “There’s no reason we would not hire a driver.” Will said the company hires about 60 to 65 drivers per week.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Indianapolis, where Celadon is based. The suit was filed on behalf of 16 would-be employees and seeks class action status.
The suit claims the trucking company, which operates in the United States, Canada and Mexico, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. It says the applicants who were rejected were qualified and met DOT requirements. EEOC attorney Aarika Mack Brown said Thursday that the rejected applicants were all “physically capable of driving a truck.”
The suit alleges that Celadon required job applicants to take vision and hearing screenings, blood pressure tests and other medical examinations aimed at detecting disabilities, and rejected those it perceived as having disabilities including impaired hearing and cardiovascular conditions.
According to the suit, federal rules require employers to make a conditional job offer before conducting a physical.
The suit seeks unspecified damages and an injunction to prevent future ADA violations.
Will said he was “perplexed” by the lawsuit.
“We’re not not hiring them because of the fact that they cannot hear or have a loss of hearing,” he said. “We’re not hiring them because the DOT tells us they cannot be hired.”
Will said drivers would be hired if they remedied the conditions that caused their rejection, for example, by wearing a hearing aid.
However, the suit alleges that one driver with a blood clot was rejected despite his taking a blood thinner to treat his condition.
Celadon said in an annual report that it is one of the top 20 North American trucking companies in terms of revenue, with more than $550 million in operating revenue in fiscal 2011. The company employs about 3,400 people, including more than 2,400 drivers.