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Even though an employer may be excessively risk averse, where there is no evidence that the employer has exaggerated the severity of an employee's condition and the risk that the condition poses, there is no violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The truck driver's condition was treatable, but even with treatment, it could cause him to have sudden fainting spells. The employer fired the truck driver pursuant to its no tolerance policy, which prohibited the employment of drivers with that condition, even though they otherwise met federal safety standards under 49 U.S.C.S. § 31136(a)(3) and 49 C.F.R. §§ 383.5, 391.11(a). Plaintiff, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), filed an enforcement action against defendant employer, alleging that it violated 42 U.S.C.S. § 12102(2)(C) of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it fired the truck driver. Plaintiff asserted that the employer mistakenly believed that the truck driver's condition rendered him disabled and that it violated 42 U.S.C.S. § 12102(2)(C) by firing him based on that mistaken belief. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer. Plaintiff appealed.
Under the circumstances, did the defendant employer violate the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The court affirmed the district court's judgment. The evidence did not show that the employer had a mistaken understanding of the driver's condition. It could decide how much risk it wanted to take and could impose higher safety standards on its drivers than those required by federal law. The fact that the employer wanted to avoid risks did not mean that it regarded the truck driver as being disabled. The driver was not disabled for ADA purposes because his condition did not prevent him from performing a wide range of jobs.