Rillito-based trucking firm denies it discriminates

2013-11-01T00:00:00Z Rillito-based trucking firm denies it discriminatesBy Carmen Duarte Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

CTI Inc., a Southwest regional trucking company based in Rillito, denies that it engages in disability discrimination as alleged in a lawsuit filed by the federal government.

Officials of the company, which would not comment earlier this month on the pending suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, now says it “fully honors its obligations under the Americans With Disabilities Act.”

“In no circumstances does CTI terminate employees because of their disabilities, or because they need a reasonable accommodation,” said Tom Jones,  CTI senior vice president, in a statement.

Jones also said that CTI “welcomes the employment of all qualified individuals, regardless whether they have a disability and or need a reasonable accommodation.”

CTI was named in the class-action suit filed in Tucson federal court Sept. 30 by the commission, which announced the lawsuit Oct. 17 in a news release.

The company employs more than 400 workers and hauls dry bulk, chemicals and hazardous materials in Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico. It is located at 11105 N. Casa Grande Highway, near Marana.

Mary Jo O’Neill, a regional attorney for the commission in Phoenix, said she disagrees with the company’s statement.

O’Neill maintains that the company fired Elizabeth Barr, Myron Pruett  and other employees because of their disabilities or because they needed reasonable accommodations when they returned to work.

The company violated the disabilities act, according to the suit, because it has a “no medical restriction policy or practice that prohibited employees from working if they have any medical restrictions.”

It also “utilized a maximum leave policy that required employees be terminated if they are unable to return to ‘full, unrestricted duty’ after 12 weeks of leave.”

O’Neill said those policies are problematic under the disabilities act.

The suit alleges Barr, who had a rare eye disease that substantially limited her eyesight, worked at CTI as a payroll and billing clerk from 2002 to 2010.

Barr needed surgeries to correct her eyesight, and she requested and used leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Before the expiration of her leave, CTI informed Barr that if her doctor did not release her to “full, unrestricted duty,” her employment and benefits might be terminated.

Barr asked for additional time to recover, but CTI denied her requests and refused to explore possible accommodations with her, and she was fired.

In response, Jones said that “Barr was not released to work again until September 2011, more than one year after her employment at CTI ended, and that after her release to work, CTI offered to meet with her about returning to work at CTI, but she declined.”

The suit says Pruett, who had respiratory conditions, worked at CTI as a truck driver from 2003 to 2010.

Pruett was off work for 12 weeks for treatment and recovery from his respiratory illness. He wanted to return to work, but he wanted to work in another position. He was fired.

In response, Jones said that Pruett was “unable to work” and he was incapacitated for his “lifetime.”

The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages. The suit also asks that those affected be rehired and for other relief to prevent discriminatory practices.

Contact reporter Carmen Duarte at cduarte@azstarnet.com or 573-4104.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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