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Risk From Medical Condition Under the ADA

May 4, 2007
Related Topics: Workplace Violence, Safety and Workplace Violence, Workforce Planning, Featured Article
Employers refusing to employ individuals with a serious medical condition do not necessarily violate the Americans With Disabilities Act’s "regarded as" provision. This was the holding of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in Chicago after reviewing Schneider National Inc.’s decision to terminate a truck driver afflicted with neurocardiogenic syncope, a condition treatable with medication.

    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission brought suit on behalf of Jerome Hoefner against Schneider National Inc., alleging that Schneider violated the ADA when it terminated Hoefner, a truck driver diagnosed with the condition. Specifically, the EEOC alleged that Schneider regarded Hoefner as disabled despite the fact that his condition is treatable with medication and does not prevent a person from satisfying the safety standards required by federal law to operate similar trucks. Further, Hoefner obtained a truck driving position with another trucking company.

   The 7th Circuit dismissed the lawsuit and held that the EEOC "has confused risk with risk aversion." The court held that Schneider is entitled to determine how much risk it is willing to take. The company’s termination of Hoefner was intended to eliminate the risk of another accident similar to an earlier fatal accident involving a Schneider driver with the same condition.

    The court also noted that Schneider would face a liability impact if another of its drivers with neurocardiogenic syncope was involved in an accident, considering the previous accident that may or may not have been caused by the condition. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Schneider National Inc., 7th Cir., No. 06-3106 (March 21, 2007).

    Impact: Employers are permitted to consider the risk of employing an individual with a physical affliction despite the mitigating effects of medical treatment.

Workforce Management
, April 9, 2007, p. 11 -- Subscribe Now!

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