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EEOC sues 2 trucking companies, alleging disability discrimination

Pilot Freight Services and Stevens Transport named in separate lawsuits

Stevens Transport and Pilot Freight Services are being sued for discriminating against people with disabilities in separate lawsuits filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Two trucking companies violated federal law by discriminating against people with disabilities, according to separate lawsuits filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Atlanta-based Pilot Freight Services fired its international manager because of his cancer diagnosis, alleges an EEOC lawsuit filed Friday.

Pilot Freight Services is a global transportation and logistics provider with 96 locations in North America, as well as operations in Europe and Asia. Pilot has an internal fleet of 277 motor vehicles and 255 drivers, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. 

On June 7, 2019, Thomas Hunt told his manager at Pilot Freight Services that he needed to request leave to see his doctor about some biopsy results, according to the EEOC. 

“About 10 days later, Hunt was terminated by Pilot, allegedly as a result of a reduction in force. Pilot claimed that Hunt was laid off because he had less tenure than other employees and his position was eliminated. However, in the months leading up to and following Hunt’s discharge, Pilot hired several employees who were not discharged based on tenure and hired an employee in a position very similar to the one that Hunt previously held, and with a higher salary,” according to the lawsuit.

The EEOC is seeking unspecified back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Hunt.

“Cancer is a big enough catastrophe for anyone without an employer piling on and firing him or her because of the disease,” Darrell Graham, district director of the Atlanta office, said in a statement.

In a separate lawsuit filed Thursday, the EEOC alleges Dallas-based Stevens Transport discriminated against an applicant based on his disability — hypertension — and because it regarded him as disabled.

The lawsuit also alleges that Stevens Transport violated the law when it asked the applicant — whom it did not name — a disability-related question before making an offer of employment.

Stevens Transport is one of the largest refrigerated over-the-road trucking companies in North America. The company operates 1,937 trucks and employs 2,458. 

“Employers may not make any disability-related inquiries before a job offer has been made,” Meaghan Kuelbs, senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s Dallas office, said in a statement. “Should such information be elicited during the application process, the Americans with Disabilities Act expressly prohibits the exclusion of a candidate for hire simply because of his status as a person with a disability.”

According to the lawsuit, the applicant applied at Stevens Transport in August 2019. During his interview, the applicant was asked whether a gap in his employment reflected on his resume was medically related.

“That question led the applicant to disclose that he had been diagnosed with hypertension in a previous job, which caused him to require medical leave. The EEOC’s suit alleges that Stevens Transport did not hire him because he disclosed his prior use of medical leave during the job interview,” according to the EEOC.

EEOC is seeking unspecified back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, along with injunctive relief for the applicant from Stevens Transport.

Neither Pilot Freight Services nor Stevens Transport immediately responded to FreightWaves’ request for comment.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact [email protected]