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Legal Briefing: Court Delivers FedEx Ruling on Hiring Decision

When an employer inquires into an applicant’s medical condition as a condition of a job, the employer must focus on the individual job at issue.

June 3, 2014
Related Topics: Miscellaneous Legal Issues, Disabilities, Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, The Latest, Legal
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FedEx Corp. offered Richard Samson, a Type 1 insulin-dependent diabetic, a position as a maintenance mechanic conditioned on his passing a medical exam required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration regulations. Those regulations apply to commercial motor vehicle drivers who transport property or passengers in interstate commerce. Samson failed the exam, and FedEx rescinded its job offer. Samson sued FedEx for disability discrimination, arguing that FedEx’s requirement that he obtain a U.S. Transportation Department medical card even though he would be a mechanic and not a driver violated the Americans with Disabilities Act’s prohibition against an employer using qualification standards to screen out people with disabilities.

The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida granted summary judgment to FedEx, holding that Samson was not qualified for the position because he could not perform the essential function of the job of test-driving vehicles. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit disagreed, and held that “occasional test-driving of empty FedEx trucks in the Fort Myers area does not constitute transporting property or passengers in interstate commerce.” Since DOT regulations did not mandate Samson pass the medical examination to be qualified for the position, FedEx could not use those regulations to exclude him for a maintenance mechanic position.

Impact: When an employer inquires into an applicant’s medical condition as a condition of a job, the employer must focus on the individualjob at issue. Also, reliance on federal or state regulations to exclude any applicant must be carefully considered.

James E. Hall, Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis are partners in the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. To comment, email editors@workforce.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

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