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Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal
"The United States Supreme Court today once again demonstrated its
fundamental hostility to disability rights in the workplace."
--Andrew J. Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities, on the Supreme Court decision limiting the scope of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Supreme Court Further Limits ADA
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
June 11, 2002
WASHINGTON, DC -- For the third time this session, the U.S. Supreme Court has handed employers a victory in interpreting the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act.
On Monday the court ruled 9-0 that employers do not have to hire a person with a disability if they believe that person's health or safety would be put at risk by performing the job.
The decision upholds a regulation set by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces the ADA in the workplace. That regulation allows businesses to refuse to hire a worker if that worker would "pose a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals" or of the individual.
The case involved Mario Echazabal, 56, who had worked for maintenance contractors at a Chevron refinery in El Segundo, California beginning in 1972. Twice during the 1990s, Echazabal applied for maintenance jobs with Chevron, which found him well qualified for the positions. But Chevron withdrew the offers after required physical examinations showed he had hepatitis C, a chronic liver disease.
Chevron then asked the maintenance contractor to fire or reassign Echazabal, saying he risked further liver damage the longer he worked around the chemicals and toxins at the plant. He was fired and now drives a school bus part-time.
Echazabal filed suit in 1997, claiming that the ADA protects qualified workers from discrimination based on their disability. Chevron argued that employers should be able to keep people out of jobs where they could become injured or killed.
A federal judge threw out Echazabal's case. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit sided with Echazabal, calling Chevron's actions "paternalistic." Monday's decision reversed the Court of Appeals ruling.
Business owners called the decision a victory. Chevron's position was supported by the Bush Administration.
Disability rights advocates worried that the ruling against Echazabal would allow employers to reject qualified workers with disabilities by saying it was for their own good. They said workers should be able to decide if the job was too dangerous for them.
"The United States Supreme Court today once again demonstrated its fundamental hostility to disability rights in the workplace," said Andrew J. Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD).
You can access the decision, Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal, on the
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