Eagan-based trucking company Transport America will pay $22,500 to a driver and revise its service animal policies to settle a federal lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges the company violated federal law when it charged the driver a fee for his accompanying service dog.
The lawsuit was filed and resolved early last week in Minnesota’s U.S. District Court by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that enforces federal laws that prohibit workplace discrimination. The EEOC said in a press release that the service dog shouldn’t have cost the driver extra because the service dog was a reasonable accommodation for the driver’s anxiety under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
Transport America required employees to pay a $400 fee plus a weekly $3 fee to bring pets with them, the Star Tribune reported.
However, the EOCC said in its release that the charges for service animals would violate federal law.
"This is a timely reminder to employers that it isn't enough that they allow service animals to accompany qualified individuals with disabilities," said Julianne Bowman, district director for the EEOC's Chicago District. "They also must avoid placing any burden on the employee with a disability that is not placed on employees who do not need the accommodation or who do not have animals accompany them."
As part of the settlement, Transportation America is required to revise its pet policies so that qualified employees with disabilities won’t be charged extra to bring along a service animal, the EOCC’s press release said.
"Employers must realize that they can't place unjustified restrictions on an employee's rights under federal law to have a service animal with him, regardless of what the company's policies say,” Greg Gochanour, EEOC’s regional attorney for the Chicago district. “We are pleased with Transport America's cooperation in reaching this agreement and removing the barriers in the way of drivers with disabilities."
Transport America is a subsidiary of TFI International Inc., a Canadian-based transportation and logistics company.