Review of sleep apnea policy’s lawfulness under ADA denied

The High Court will not revisit an Eight Circuit holding that summary judgment was properly granted against an overweight truck driver’s claim that being required to undergo a sleep study violated the ADA. The Court entered an order on April 3 denying the truck driver’s petition for certiorari in Parker v. Crete Carrier Corp. At issue was the employer’s perception that due to his size, the driver was at risk for sleep apnea and should therefore undergo a sleep study.

Hired as a truck driver in 2006, the employee was subject to medical exams every two years as required under regulations issued by the DOT’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. During the DOT physical, the examiner measures height and weight; takes a health history; tests vision, hearing, blood pressure, and urine; and examines numerous body systems. Drivers cannot operate a commercial motor vehicle unless certified as physically qualified, and those with impairments that interfere with driving are not certified.

Sleep apnea program. In 2010, the trucking company began a sleep apnea program based certain recommendations and required drivers at risk for obstructive sleep apnea to undergo in-lab sleep studies. This was required of drivers who had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or greater, or drivers whose physician recommended a sleep study.

BMI over 35. At the employee’s most recent DOT physical, his BMI exceeded 35. He visited a certified physician’s assistant who was not affiliated with the employer and who wrote a prescription stating that the PA-C did “not feel it is medically necessary” for the employee to have a sleep study. The employee was nonetheless removed from service when he refused the employer’s sleep study. He filed suit claiming that the employer violated the ADA by requiring the exam and discriminating based on a perceived disability.

Summary judgment upheld. The Eight Circuit held that the district court properly considered testimony of the trucking company’s expert on the danger posed by drivers with obstructive sleep apnea, the usefulness of Body Mass Index in screening drivers for sleep studies, validity of sleep studies in diagnosing sleep apnea, and the availability of treatment. Summary judgment was thus proper against the trucker’s claim that being required to undergo a sleep study violated the ADA. The expert’s testimony established that the exam was job-related and consistent with business necessity.

SOURCE: Parker v. Crete Carrier Corp. (U.S. Sup. Ct.), No. 16-002, February 13, 2017.

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