Supreme Court To Hear Driver Vision Case

January 11, 1999

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Two cases related to trucking will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court as it attempts to clarify the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The 1990 law banning discrimination against the disabled has resulted in hundreds of lawsuits, forcing judges to interpret just how far Congress intended the law to reach in accommodating people with disabilities. The rulings often contradict each other.
Truck driver Hallie Kirkingburg of Portland, OR, is nearly blind in one eye, but his other eye can be corrected to 20/20 with glasses or a contact lens. He had a safe driving record for 20 years, but when his employer, Albertson’s, found out about the condition, he was fired.
Kirkingburg sued, saying Albertson’s should have accommodated his disability by giving him back his job after he got a waiver of the federal regulations that prohibit one-eyed drivers. A federal judge ruled for Albertson’s, but an appeals court ruled he was fired illegally. Albertson’s appealed. The high court will hear the appeal.
Another of the cases involves a man who applied for a mechanic’s job at a truck fleet but was fired because his blood pressure exceeded federal transportation rules. The job requires mechanics to have CDLs so they can drive a truck for road tests.
The third case involves two nearsighted pilots.
At the heart of all three cases the court is hearing is the issue of whether disabilities that can be corrected are covered under ADA. The cases are scheduled to be heard this spring.

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