Disability discrimination

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Disability discrimination

I have a permanent disability due to an injury while working as a contractor in Afghanistan in 2012. I am now trying to resenter the work force as I have reached a point where I am mostly capable and reliable. Recently, made it fairly far in the interview process to work at a satellite uplink facility. Everything went extremely well and I was even interviewed by another department as my experience according to them qualified me for management and leadership. They let me know today that they are moving forward with other candidates as they are planning to require drivers licenses in the future for operating company vehicles. Due to my injury I take medication that automatically makes me liable in any traffic accident and as such I don’t drive and even if I got a license would be uninsureable. As the actual position requires no driving should my lack of license fall under reasonable accommodations? Several jobs I have applied for or seen listed have an unnecessary drivers liscense requirement and I feel this is an unfair disadvantage for me.

Asked on February 11, 2019 under Employment Labor Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

It depends on whether driving is indeed a reasonably important part of the job, even if it is not absolutely necessary. For example, say that this position has to, as part of the job, go to other locations of this employer or to clients/customers--and especially if you have bring tools, supplies, equipment, etc. with you. In that case, being able to drive is an important part of the job, since other ways to get around (e.g. Uber) may be costlier, may be less reliable or less under the company's control, or even not feasible (depending on how much you'd have to bring with you). In this case, requiring a license is not discrimination, since it would not be reasonable to require them to hire someone who can't do an important part of the job.
On the other hand, say that it is very rare that you might have to go to another location and that when you do, you only take with what can be easily taken in an Uber or the like; in that instance, since the license is unnecessary, it would be disability-based discrimination to require one and you could contact the federal EEOC or state equal/civil rights agency about bringing a claim.
Examples: I used to work in publishing. Our parent company had two locations in the same city. While each one had it's own tech support, sometimes they collaborated--the company didn't fully staff either location, since it knew that it could have the tech support from one help out the other. So going from one location to another, bringing with you laptops, printers, cables, routers, tools, etc. was a not-uncommon thing for tech support. They had to be able to drive to do their jobs, since otherwise, it was a burden on the employer. Similarly, the head of operations, who frequently had to go to a warehouse in an outlying area, had to be able to drive. And marketing often supported the field sales reps and had to be able to drive to get to customers and shows. All those positions required licenses.
On the other had, editors went nowhere, except to a once per year sales meeting to present their products. They did not need to drive and were not required to be able to do so. Same thing for graphic artists and accounting/finance staff.
So it depends on whether driving was or was not realistically a reasonable part of the job you applied for.


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