Crete Did Not Violate ADA For Terminating Alcoholic Driver, Court Says

A U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled that Crete did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act when the company terminated a driver who had been diagnosed with alcoholism.

According to Business Insurance, Sakari Jarvela was a driver for Crete from November 2003 to April 2010.  Jarvela allegedly stubbled with alcohol abuse, and a month and a half prior to his termination, Jarvela had been diagnosed with alcoholism.

Jarvela’s doctor referred him to an outpatient treatment program for his alcoholism.  Jarvela noticed Crete of his intention to enter into the treatment program and filed for Family and Medical Leave Act leave.  Crete approved the leave from March 18, 2010 until June 6, 2010.

In April 2010, Jarvela completed outpatient treatment and attempted to return to work for Crete, however, Crete’s VP of safety determined that Jarvela was no longer qualified to be a driver.  Crete has a strict company policy that prohibits the employment of anyone who has been diagnosed with alcoholism within a 5-years. Jarvela was terminated.

Jarvela felt that the carrier had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the FMLA and filed a lawsuit against Crete.

A U.S. District Court in Atlanta dismissed the charges, stating  that the “crux of the dispute” was whether Jarvela was qualified under the DOT regulations and Crete’s company policy.  While the DOT does say that a person is not qualified to operate a CMV if they have a “current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism,” Crete’s company policy was clear– anyone with a recent diagnosis of alcoholism is prohibited from driving for the company, and employers have the power to make the final decision on who is qualified to drive.

“Since the regulations place the onus on the employer to make sure each employee is qualified to drive a commercial vehicle, the employer must determine whether someone suffers from a current clinical diagnosis of alcoholism. Here, Crete did just that,” the court ruled.

Jarvela appealed the court decision, but  the appeals court sided with the lower court’s decision and upheld the dismissal of Jarvela’s suit.

“Crete put forward evidence that it would have discharged Jarvela regardless of his FMLA leave, and Jarvela presented no evidence disputing it,” the court ruled.

Source: Business Insurance