Fuel Smarts

Supreme Court Rules ADA Doesn't Apply To Driver Vision

June 22, 1999

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The Supreme Court yesterday ruled that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not protect people with poor eyesight or other conditions that can be corrected. The rulings bar discrimination lawsuits by a truck driver almost blind in one eye, a mechanic with high blood pressure and two nearsighted pilots.

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 under ATA, 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.
In another trucking-related case, Murphy vs. UPS, a man who applied for a mechanic's job was fired by UPS 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 involved two nearsighted pilots.
The ATA prohibits employers from discriminating against a "qualified individual with a disability" because of that disability. A "qualified" person is one who can perform a job when given reasonable accommodation. A "disability" is defined as a condition that substantially limits a major life activity.
The American Trucking Assns. applauded the ruling, saying it "recognizes the importance of the ADA's goal of employing those with disabilities in a manner consistent with safety and performance requirements." The ATA Litigation Center filed friend-of-the-court briefs in the Murphy and Albertsons cases.

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