The adverse impact of a negative driving record on a person’s employment was underscored earlier this year in a ruling of the court of appeals overturning a lower court order to reinstate a discharged military veteran. In Maire v Ind. Sch.Dist. #191, (Burnsville), 2013 WL 1705043 (Minn. App. 2013) (unpublished), the Minnesota Court of Appeals set aside a ruling by the Dakota County District Court under the Veterans Preference Act, Minn. Stat. §197.46, allowing a plumber for a school district to regain his job after he was fired due to a third driving-related incident. Although charged with a DWI and an open bottle violation, the plumber managed to retain his driving privilege during pending criminal and implied consent proceedings. He needed the license to perform his job, which required him to drive a school district vehicle while traveling to various sites to perform maintenance work. The school district terminated him because its insurance carrier refused to cover him while driving district vehicles.
The plumber, an honorably discharged military veteran, challenged his discharge under the Veteran’s Preference Act, which prohibits discharge except for “incompetence or misconduct.” The district court ordered his reinstatement, but the appellate court reversed on grounds that there was “substantial evidence” before the school board to warrant discharge, though he still had a driver’s license.
The case illustrates the perils employers face when employees whose jobs require some driving experience an adverse incident affecting their driving. The typical situation concerns an employee who is fired or is declared ineligible for unemployment benefits because of loss of a driver’s license. In this case the job loss was based on uninsurability, even though the employee retained his driving privileges at the time of the discharge.
Employees challenging loss of employment or seeking unemployment benefits should try to obtain a limited or restricted work-only license or show that their job duties can be modified to eliminate driving while they lack a license or seek other accommodations, such as having a helper, associate, or someone else do the driving. Employers should point to economic problems and other reasons why such arrangements may not be feasible or other hardship they would impose.
Marshall H. Tanick
Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC