Feds sue Werner Enterprises for refusing to hire deaf truck driver

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed suit against Nebraska-headquartered Werner Enterprises, Inc. after the company refused to hire a truck driver because he is deaf despite that fact that he received an exemption from the FMCSA.

The lawsuit was filed by the EEOC on July 11 in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, according to a news release from the agency. The suit alleges that “Werner told [truck driver] Andrew Deuschle that it could not hire deaf persons as truck drivers and, therefore, refused to hire him, despite the fact that he had graduated from truck driving school, received his commercial driver license, and obtained from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) an exemption from the hearing regulation for the operation of a commercial motor vehicle.” The suit also accuses Werner of asking improper pre-employment questions about Deuschle’s disability.

The EEOC’s suit argues that Werner’s actions violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).

EEOC director James R. Neely, Jr. argues that Deuschle’s deafness does not prevent him from safely driving a truck: “Using stereotypes about disabilities to screen out applicants for high-paying trucking jobs cannot be tolerated. Just because someone is deaf doesn’t mean he or she cannot safely drive a truck. That is why the FMCSA grants hearing exemptions, just as it did here for Mr. Deuschle.

EEOC regional attorney Andrea G. Baran echoed this sentiment: “Employers must learn that negative stereotypes about people who are deaf are unfounded. The EEOC will hold accountable those employers who have not learned that deaf people can drive over-the-road trucks as well as anyone.