Thursday, August 11, 2016

Being accident free is important for a truck driver, says Ohio court

I love common sense legal decisions. Hartman v. Ohio Department of Transportation is one such case. It's holding—four preventable accidents in nine months disqualifies a truck driver from further employment.

Fred Hartman drove trucks for 50 years, the last 22 for the Ohio Department of Transportation. He claimed that ODOT unlawfully terminated him after he had submitted a doctor’s note requesting accommodation for hearing loss in one of his ears. Fortunately for ODOT, Hartman’s driving record was peppered with preventable accidents in the nine months that preceded his termination, including, in one three week period, backing up a dump truck and hitting an overhanging sign, backing up a truck a striking a stationary trailer, and backing a dump truck into the wall of a salt dome. These three accidents resulted in a suspension and a last chance agreement. Several months later, Hartman failed to yield the right of way and was struck by another driver. The fourth accident was the last straw—it violated the last chance agreement and resulted in his termination.

The appellate court had little trouble determining that, despite Hartman’s claims of age discrimination, disability discrimination, and retaliation, that ODOT had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the termination for which Hartman had failed to establish pretext—his driving record.
The record demonstrates that Hartman's job was terminated for the express reason that he was involved in a preventable traffic accident while on a last chance agreement. Hartman admits that the accidents reflected in the record occurred and that he knew he would be terminated from his employment upon the last accident due to the last chance agreement providing any violation of work policy would result in termination. Thus, Hartman essentially admits that there was a sufficient basis in fact for the termination. …
[T]here is absolutely no evidence from which we could conclude, even drawing all inferences in favor of Hartman, that his partial hearing loss prevented him from performing any aspect of his job, including driving, such that he might have needed such an accommodation. Only two doctors' notes appear in the record regarding Hartman's hearing in relation to driving. One concluded that Hartman had fully adequate faculties to drive a truck (even in reverse), and the other merely indicated that Hartman believed the hearing loss caused the recent accidents without endorsing that view.
Chalk one up to common-sense legal reasoning.