U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Refusal To Hire Under ADA

By John S. McClenahen With another ruling this week, the U.S. Supreme Court has now twice in two months significantly narrowed the seemingly broad sweep of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On April 29, the court said that under ordinary circumstances the ADA can't be used to trump a seniority system arrived at through collective bargaining (US Airways Inc. v. Barnett, No. 00-1250). In a 9-0 decision handed down on June 10, the court stated that an employer cannot be forced to hire a person with a disability if the job would put the employee's health at risk. "A regulation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission authorizes refusal to hire an individual because his performance on the job would endanger his own health, owing to a disability. The question in this case is whether the Americans with Disabilities Act . . . permits the regulation. We hold that it does," said Justice David Souter, writing for the unanimous court in Chevron U.S.A. Inc v. Mario Echazabal (No. 00-1406). "Needless to say, industrial employers across the country feel vindicated by this common sense ruling," says Quentin Riegel, deputy general counsel of the National Association of Manufacturers, Washington, D.C. "It provides a discernible path between government demands for maximum workplace safety and competing demands by employees who are willing to take unnecessary risks."

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