Lawsuit: Ford wouldn’t let disabled vet use service dog

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

A former employee is suing Ford Motor Co., alleging the Dearborn automaker wouldn’t let him bring his service dog into the transmission plant he worked in.

Bradley Arndt is a 44-year-old Army veteran diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and a brain injury who had worked at Ford’s Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights as a manufacturing adviser. Earlier this week he filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court accusing Ford of denying multiple requests to bring Cadence, his 3 1/2-year-old male German Shepherd service dog, to work with him to help with his disability. The lawsuit alleges Ford human resources staff treated him negatively and with disrespect after he made his request, and because he was denied use of a service dog, he had to take time off work on multiple occasions.

“It’s just really shocking a company like Ford would not have been more sensitive,” said Deborah Gordon, Arndt’s attorney. “They’re one of the leaders of corporate America and know what the law is. The plant people completely dropped the ball.”

Ford said Friday it will review the case and respond accordingly.

“Ford is committed to having a diverse and inclusive workforce including employees with disabilities, and we make reasonable accommodations where we are able to,” the automaker said in a statement. “We also are proud of our commitment to America’s veterans and employ approximately 6,000 U.S. veterans along with hundreds of active military personnel, U.S. reservists and members of the National Guard.”

Arndt, an Indiana native, was hired by Ford in August 2012, according to the lawsuit. Less than a year later, in February 2013, he submitted a written request to bring Cadence into work as an accommodation for his disability.

The lawsuit says Arndt’s supervisor “reacted negatively,” and he withdrew his request.

About a year later Arndt submitted another request, this time with encouragement from his doctor, who said flashbacks to his time in the Army and tension and anxiety over certain aspects of his workday could lead to difficulty doing his job.

“Were Mr. Arndt allowed to have his service dog in his vehicle on his commute to and from work, and under his desk in his office during his shift, the dog would provide the calming interventions that will enable him to complete his job duties,” Arndt’s doctor wrote in a note to Ford.

The lawsuit says Arndt was treated with “hostility, disrespect, callousness, and/or indifference by Ford HR staff, amid disparaging comments about plaintiff’s service dog and threats to plaintiff’s employment.”

Ford failed to approve his request, and Arndt quit his job in May 2014.

“It’s surprising to me how little these companies are willing to do in a plant atmosphere,” Gordon said. “This is a particularly egregious example of them just utterly failing to try to work with our client.”

Arndt is seeking his job back with the ability to use his service dog, Gordon said.

“You always hope you can make a change in policy that will be helpful for other people,” she said. “One thing we’re asking for is our client return to work.”

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