Trucker files defamation lawsuit against former employer who allegedly reported false drug/alcohol test results

By Nicholas Malfitano

PHILADELPHIA – A commercial truck driver who claims his drug/alcohol test results were misinterpreted by his former employers, led to his termination and then communicated to other possible businesses when he sought work has filed a lawsuit against those same former employers.

Kenneth Morris of Philadelphia filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Dec. 5 versus Unigroup Logistics and United Van Lines, LLC both of Fenton, Mo., plus Safeway Logistics and Worksmart Systems, Inc., both of Indianapolis.

According to the lawsuit, Morris is a commercial truck driver who possesses a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) issued in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, which he has held since 1996. In that time, Morris has never had a license suspension of any kind and was never ineligible to work as a commercial truck driver.

Morris drove interstate trucks for defendants, jointly and severally, under the names “Unigroup Logistics,” “United Van Lines” and “Safeway Logistics,” regularly made deliveries to and from Philadelphia and received paychecks from “Worksmart Systems, Inc.” On May 18, 2017, the plaintiff was informed that he was selected for a random drug and alcohol test, per the terms of his employment, the suit says.

“Immediately upon receipt of notice from defendants, plaintiff proceeded to the testing site operated by U.S. HealthWorks, in accordance with defendants’ instructions. Plaintiff cooperated fully with the test. He followed all instructions given to him by the testing agent. Days after the test was complete, plaintiff was told that he refused to take an alcohol test. Under the FMCSRs, a refusal to test has the same effect as a positive test. Defendant’s statement that plaintiff refused to test is false,” the suit states.

Morris claims the facility’s blood alcohol technician did not sign any alcohol testing form, thus resulting in a “canceled test” and not a “refused test” – a distinction allegedly not made to the defendants, who then fired Morris.

When Morris attempted to seek other work as a commercial truck driver, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations mandate prospective employers contact a candidate’s prior employers for a history of drug/alcohol test results, the suit says.

“A driver who has refused a test, or who has a positive test result, is not legally eligible to operate a commercial motor vehicle. Defendants falsely reported that plaintiff failed/refused a DOT test to several prospective employers. Defendants unlawfully withheld reports of plaintiff’s drug/alcohol testing history from several other prospective employers. Plaintiff disputed the accuracy of the reported information to defendants and defendants refused to correct the false reports. As a result, plaintiff was unable to work. Plaintiff explained to several prospective employers why the reports from defendants were false. Plaintiff’s explanations were supported by the documentation available to him about the falsity of the alleged refusal.  Many companies did not accept plaintiff’s explanation or proof,” the complaint continues.

However, one of Morris’s prior employers, CRST, accepted his explanation for the misunderstanding surrounding the drug/alcohol test and hired him, the suit says. Morris reported to CRST for training on Oct. 31, 2017 and began driving for them once again on Nov. 20. In the interim, Morris alleges he suffered lost back pay, lost benefits, emotional distress and also possible future loss of employment.

For counts of defamation and tortious interference, the plaintiff is seeking damages not in excess of $50,000, plus such other relief as the Court deems just and proper.

The plaintiff is represented by Timothy P. Creech of Creech & Creech, in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 171200250 From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at [email protected]

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