In 2010, Crete Carrier Corporation instituted testing of sleep apnea for drivers with Body Mass Indexes (“BMI”) of 35 and over. This sleep apnea testing was based on recommendations from two advisory committees related to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. Overweight drivers were targeted because obesity has been shown to cause sleep apnea, which reduces sleep, and makes it more likely that drivers will be drowsy during work hours.
Robert Parker had a BMI over 35. As an employee of Crete, he was advised that he would be undergoing an in-sleep study. Mr. Parker refused. He provided a doctor’s note indicating that the testing was medically unnecessary. Because he refused, Crete took Mr. Parker off of the driving rotation.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether Crete’s requirement for medical testing violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. To be lawful, medical exams must be job related and consistent with business necessity. In this case, the court of appeals found that the sleep test was job-related as the medical condition it was testing could impair driving. Furthermore, business necessity was shown because an in-lab study was the best way to diagnose the condition. The evidence between obesity and sleep apnea was sufficient for Crete to suspect Mr. Parker of having the condition. Mr. Parker’s unblemished work history did not establish that he did not suffer from sleep apnea. Crete had legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for its test and it had the right to fire Mr. Parker for refusing to submit to a lawful medical examination.