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Court: Sleep apnea test legitimate for truckers with high body mass index

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

A federal appeals court has refused to reinstate a lawsuit over whether it constitutes an illegal medical test under the ADA to force someone with a high body mass index (and presumed obesity) to undergo a sleep apnea test.

Recent case: Crete Carrier Corp. required truck drivers with body mass indices (BMIs) of 35 or greater to get medical examinations to determine whether they had obstructive sleep apnea. Crete ordered Robert to undergo an examination, but he refused.

Crete stopped giving Robert work and he sued Crete, alleging it violated the ADA by requiring the examination and discriminating on the basis of a perceived disability.  

A lower court dismissed the case, reasoning that the requirement was part of the federal Department of Transportation’s recommendations for commercially licensed drivers and had been designed to cut down on accidents caused by drivers falling asleep at the wheel. The presumption underlying the recommendation was that those who are overweight are more prone to sleep apnea, which if untreated can mean falling asleep while driving trucks on the highways. Crete had accepted that recommendation, implementing a testing program for those with a high BMI index like Robert.

Robert appealed. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reinstate his lawsuit. It concluded that the company’s required testing had a legitimate business purpose and, therefore, was not an illegal screening test under the ADA. (Parker v. Crete Carrier, No. 16-1371, 8th Cir., 2016)

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