8th Circuit Affirms Dismissal in Medical Exam and Perceived Disability Discrimination Case

The U. S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit recently affirmed the decision of the District Court of Nebraska that granted the trucking company summary judgment on all of plaintiff’s claims. The Court held the trucking company’s policy of requiring sleep apnea screening for drivers with a body mass index (BMI) of 33 or greater was a permissible medical exam under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(4)(A). The Court found that the trucking company’s evidence established the medical exam was job-related and consistent with business necessity.

The Court rejected the argument that an employer must consider an employee’s individual characteristics before mandating a sleep study. Instead, “[w]hen an employer requires a class of employees to submit to a medical exam, it also ‘must show that it has reasons consistent with business necessity for defining the class in the way that it has.’” (citing Conroy v. N.Y. State Dep’t of Corr. Servs., 333 F.3d 88, 101 (2d Cir. 2003). The Court held that the trucking company defined the class of employees reasonably: “Crete was reasonable to define the class as drivers with BMIs of 35 or above because (1) it has a reasonable basis for concluding that class poses a safety risk given the correlation between high BMIs and obstructive sleep apnea, and (2) the sleep study requirement allows Crete to decrease the risk posed by that class by ensuring that drivers with sleep apnea get treatment.”

The Court also affirmed dismissal of the perceived disability discrimination claim saying: “The undisputed evidence shows that Crete suspended Parker for refusing to submit to a lawful medical examination. That does not violate the ADA. Since Crete’s stated reason for suspending him was not pretext, Parker’s claim fails.”

Parker v. Crete Carrier Corp., In the U.S. District Court of Nebraska, aff’d, ___ F.3d ___ (8th Cir.) pet. for rehearing den’d (Nov. 16, 216).