Eighth Circuit Upholds Trucking Company’s Policy Requiring At-Risk Drivers to Submit to Medical Examinations

Trucks are involved in an alarming number of accidents. Due to their massive size and weight, the collisions that they cause can lead to devastating injuries for the other motorists and pedestrians involved. A recent study conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, along with the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, concluded that truck drivers are twice as likely to suffer from obesity as adults in other industries and occupations. The study also showed that truck operators have a higher likelihood of being avid smokers and tend to suffer from more chronic illnesses.

To address the issues associated with these health conditions, Crete Carrier Corporation adopted a policy requiring truck operators with a body mass index of 35 or higher to undergo frequent medical examinations to ensure that they do not suffer from sleep apnea. This condition is a potentially dangerous disorder in which the individual may stop breathing suddenly while sleeping. These pauses in breathing may result in a number of side effects, including restlessness, exhaustion, and an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, diabetes, heart failure, or high blood pressure. If a driver was diagnosed as having sleep apnea, he or she was ordered to undergo a medical treatment plan.

One of Crete’s drivers refused to undergo the required medical examination, stating that it was a violation of the American Disabilities Act because it required individuals with an actual or perceived illness to submit to extra requirements. According to the driver, the company stopped assigning work to him, resulting in financial losses. The driver then initiated a discrimination lawsuit against the company. Crete moved for summary judgment, and the lower court granted the motion, thereby dismissing the lawsuit. The driver appealed.

The Eight Circuit Court of Appeals first stated that for a company to require an employee to submit to extra medical examinations, it must show that the examination is reasonably related to the job requirements and that it constitutes a business necessity. To be considered a necessity, the company must show that it had a reasonable basis for believing that the targeted class of operators poses a genuine safety risk to other motorists or individuals. Ultimately, the appellate court reversed, finding that the medical examination requirement was lawful. According to the court, sleep apnea can increase the chance of a vehicle collision as much as 4.9 percent in some cases. Since the employer was able to show a connection between individuals with a body mass index score of 35 or higher and sleep apnea, it was reasonable to require these drivers to undergo a medical examination before allowing them to operate trucks on behalf of the company.

If you have been involved in a truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At Therman Law Offices, we have handled a wide variety of motor vehicle accident cases and are prepared to help your family and you assert your rights. Motor vehicle accidents can be very complicated, requiring substantial investigations, discovery, and negotiations with insurance companies. Our skilled personal injury attorneys offer a free consultation to discuss your situation and the legal remedies that may be available to you. Call us at 312-588-1900 or contact us online to schedule your appointment now.

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