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A deaf trucker had a CDL and a FMCSA exemption. EEOC says Werner should have hired him

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The suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Werner Enterprises over the company’s alleged failure to hire a deaf man as a driver because of his disability makes an interesting read, beyond the legal issues.

The suit, filed earlier this week against Werner in the U.S. District Court for Nebraska, is obviously one-sided; there is no Werner response as of yet. (Werner did not respond to FreightWaves’ request for comment). But it traces the path of Andrew Deuschle, the driver in question, who–according to the suit–does have a CDL, has worked as a driver at C.R. England, and possesses a disability exemption from the Federal Motor Carrier Administration.

Here’s what the suit says about Deuschle and his interaction with Werner:

He received from FMCSA an exemption from the agency’s hearing requirements in June 2014. He then enrolled in Amarillo Truck Driving Academy. While he was there, the school received a visit from Dale Hunt, a recruiter for Werner. At that visit, according to the suit, Hunt told Deuschle that Werner could not hire deaf persons. Later that year, Deuschle received his CDL. He also got a job as a driver for C.R. England, but also did apply to Werner, where he did not receive an offer.

The following year, Deuschle took another stab at Werner, and his deafness was not listed on the application. At that point, he had 4 1/2 “successful” months as a driver with C.R. England. A separate representative from Werner, Donny Gibbs, contacted Deuschle, told him his application had been pre-approved but that other information was necessary. At that point, Werner knew Deuschle was deaf, because as the suit points out, an interpreter was used in the communication between the two parties. Gibbs also asked Deuschle in a separate email whether he had at least 30 days experience as a driver–he did, with C.R. England–and whether he had graduated from CDL school, which he had.

“Deuschle then asked Gibbs whether Hunt (the first Werner recruiter) had been correct when he said that Defendant cannot hire deaf persons for driving positions,” the suit says. “Gibbs replied that ‘unfortunately, that is correct. That is a DOT regulation.’ On April 23, 2015, Deuschle emailed Gibbs again, explaining that he had a hearing exemption from FMCSA and asking whether he could work for Defendant.”

Gibbs asked Deuschle to send his exemption and said Werner would review the application. A few days later, Deuschle asked Gibbs why he had not been hired–the lawsuit doesn’t specify any sort of rejection letter or email having been received by Deuschle–which resulted in Gibbs directing Deuschle to a Werner review board, which then sent the issue back to Gibbs, the recruiter. Communication between the two sides stopped at that point.

The suit charges Werner with two key violations. The first is that they didn’t hire Deuschle because of his disability. The second is that a question on the application regarding a job candidate’s physical abilities violates the Americans with Disabilities Act’s limitations on asking a job candidate about any disabilities.

Outside of noting that the FMCSA waiver had been granted to Deuschle, the lawsuit doesn’t bring it up again in making its broad charges of discrimination. There is no statement in the lawsuit by the EEOC that indicates the FMCSA exemption should have been seen by Werner as a ticket to a driving job that superseded their interpretation of the rules on hearing. (FMCSA summarizes the hearing rules here.)

An attorney for the EEOC in St. Louis, which filed the suit, declined to comment beyond what is in the legal document.

The EEOC and Werner have been in contact over this issue for at least a year. The suit says that on July 25, 2017, the EEOC sent a letter to Werner “finding reasonable cause to believe that (Werner) violate the ADA.” The EEOC says it attempted to engage in “methods of conciliation” with Werner, but was unable to do so. In March of this year, EEOC issued a “Notice of Failure of Conciliation” to Werner.

The suit seeks several penalties to be levied against Werner, including back payments to Deuschle and taking steps to ensure that further discrimination does not occur. It does not ask that Werner hire Deuschle.


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John Kingston

John has an almost 40-year career covering commodities, most of the time at S&P Global Platts. He created the Dated Brent benchmark, now the world’s most important crude oil marker. He was Director of Oil, Director of News, the editor in chief of Platts Oilgram News and the “talking head” for Platts on numerous media outlets, including CNBC, Fox Business and Canada’s BNN. He covered metals before joining Platts and then spent a year running Platts’ metals business as well. He was awarded the International Association of Energy Economics Award for Excellence in Written Journalism in 2015. In 2010, he won two Corporate Achievement Awards from McGraw-Hill, an extremely rare accomplishment, one for steering coverage of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and the other for the launch of a public affairs television show, Platts Energy Week.

One Comment

  1. How did he get an exemption? For what reason? I know DOT in Oregon requires the ability to hear at a certain level in at least one ear. I am not sure if that is the same as the federal requirement.

    1. You can get an exemption in any state . I know a ton of deaf drivers. If they can drive cars they can drive a big rig.

  2. What a joke. Its America you don’t get job if they don’t want you as a driver. When I was 70 and driving from 1995 .No accidents etc . I was turned down because of age at new job. I didn’t care i went somewhere else.
    Three or four months on the job. Drive a year before moving seats.
    Your not a driver, you want a hand out. The only handicap you have is entitlement. Free ride to the bank. Well, the sharks you hired will get paid.
    Fairness is job ability through work,and skills learned.
    Jump to the front of the line. Earn through work.
    I could care less if your deaf. Put years in so your safe to drivers around you. Your phone would never stop ringing. We have a name for winners. I 40 cry babies. 10 miles off the big road, and they call the dispatcher.
    Go back to England work hard , stop crying.
    Be safe driver you’ll make it.

  3. Why would anyone want to drive for Warner I would rather have my toenails pulled out

  4. David, Since you can’t even spell Werner; maybe you should apply, and have your toenails pulled out!

  5. This is so stupid!! As a professional truck driver I side with Werner and blast C.R. England for ever hiring him!!
    Why would you ever put someone in charge of an 80,000 pound truck and he cannot hear a horn blast from a car or other vehicle driver that he is getting too close!! I cannot believe they cannot see how incredulously irresponsible this is. Pure and simple he should be denied because "IT’S A SAFETY ISSUE"
    What, next you will allow a blind driver to drive. Ok that may be far fetched but I knew of a truck driver that was color blind. I am sure when they changed the color blind test to pick out the red or green fabric strand he failed. SOME RULES NEED TO STAND!!

  6. EEOC sued on behalf of someone, yet they told me they don’t do that when I was being harassed to death. What a bullshit story.

  7. This is crazy , companies have a enough pressure on them the way itis,trying to make all the right calls. 42 years of trucking , personally I think hearing would be ur most , needed resource. And as a truck owner & small company , when is the bull shot going to let up ,AMERICA TRUCKS move our country . It seams Werner is being targeted lately , I doubt they are perfect , don’t like RUMUR they are behind the electronic logging (( I don’t know this for a fact )) but if so what a joke. I would have to side with WERNER on the hiring because Of risk & SAFETY factor, ALL LIVES MATTER