Truck driver's heavy loads lead to age discrimination suit

Ann Knef Feb. 21, 2008, 4:36am

A 62-year-old truck driver from Clay County, Illinois filed an age discrimination suit in federal court claiming he was terminated from his job and replaced with a younger individual after complaining about hauling overweight loads.

According to the suit filed Feb. 20 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Howard McDowell, a transit driver for Gordon Food Service, claims he was "outspoken" regarding his opposition to hauling overweight loads nightly from Mt. Vernon to a Sheperdsville, Ken. drop location.

He claims he was told, "[C]arrying overweight loads is just the way things are done around GFS," the complaint states.

McDowell, who was hired in March 2006 and terminated in July 2007, also claims the company took measures to silence him.

According to the suit, a message was relayed to him "that he had better quit complaining about the overweight loads or they would refuse to let him into the Sheperdsville, Kentucky Distribution Center."

"While the number of overweight loads seemed to diminish for a short time after November 2006, by February 2007, McDowell was carrying some of the heaviest loads ever pulled out of the drop location in Mt. Vernon, Illinois," the complaint states.

McDowell claims he reiterated his concerns about carrying overweight loads in June 2007, and on July 19, 2007, not only complained, but threatened to no longer carry them.

"On or about July 24, 2007, as a result of a medical condition, McDowell lost control of his bowels while at Defendant's Sheperdsville, Kentucky Yard and was forced to relieve himself behind his trailer," the complaint states.

He claims he received a two-day suspension on July 25, 2007.

"McDowell reported to Defendant that he believed the incident to be caused by medication that he takes for a medical condition," the complaint states.

"McDowell offered a physician's note and took measures to prevent such an incident from occurring in the future.

"Nevertheless, without explanation, Defendant revoked McDowell's suspension and terminated his employment on or about July 26, 2007. McDowell was replaced by a substantially younger individual."

McDowell claims his employer violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and terminated him in retaliation for his opposition to carrying overweight loads.

Represented by Kyle F. Biesecker of Biesecker & Dutkanych of Evansville, Ind., McDowell is seeking, among other things, to be reinstated to the position, salary and seniority level he would have enjoyed and/or front pay in lieu thereof.

He also seeks wages, benefits and other monetary loss, punitive damages, costs and attorneys' fees and pre- and post-judgment interest on all sums recoverable.

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