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Court: Carriers can require driver sleep studies based on BMI

A federal appeals court has upheld Crete Carrier Corporation's policy of requiring truck drivers with body mass indexes (BMIs) of 35 or greater to undergo medical exams to determine whether they have obstructive sleep apnea. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit's decision held that Crete's requirement does not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

ADA prohibits employers from requring a medical exam unless it "is should to be job-related and consistent with business necessity," the appeals court noted in the October 12 opinion. "By the undisputed facts, the sleep study requirement is job-related because it deals with a condition that impairs drivers’ abilities to operate their vehicles," the court said. "It is consistent with business necessity: An examination is necessary to determine whether an individual has obstructive sleep apnea, a condition that poses a public safety hazard by increasing the risk of motor vehicle accidents."

The court said that the driver, Robert Parker, could still succeed in an ADA claim if he could show that (1) Crete regarded him as having a disability; (2) the driver had the qualifications to perform the essential functions of his position with or without reasonable accommodation, and (3) Crete took an adverse action due do his perceived disability. However, even then Crete could defeat the claim by providing a "legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse action" unless Parker can then show that Crete's stated reason is pretext."

"Parker is right that the only conceivable reason that Crete suspended him is that he failed to comply with Crete’s sleep-study requirement," the appeals court said. "But, as discussed, Parker is wrong that the sleep study requirement was unlawful. The undisputed evidence shows that Crete suspended Parker for refusing to submit to a lawful medical examination. That does not violate the ADA."

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