NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Under The ADA

May 5, 1997

Bureaucratic interpretations and court rulings under the Americans with Disabilities Act might be amusing if they weren't downright ridiculous and even dangerous, companies affected warn.

Physically incapable, mentally unstable, and alcoholic and addicted employees are using the law to hold on to safety-sensitive positions, according to reports.

  • A former truck driver for Ryder Systems, Inc. who was subject to epileptic seizures won a $5.5 million jury verdict in January -- the company let him go because his health condition could be a safety hazard.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed an ADA suit against Federal Express over its policy of employing only drivers with sight in both eyes -- even though the Department of Transportation forbids one-eyed drivers from operating big trucks.
  • The Massachusetts Supreme Court has ruled that a Boston police recruit had the right to lie on his job application to conceal a record of repeated hospitalizations for psychiatric problems.
  • Ship's officers have won suits against oil companies for the right to command vessels despite serious alcoholic problems in the past, and Northwest Airlines rehired a pilot who had flown passengers while drunk.

UCLA hospital officials continued to allow a surgeon to operate on patients -- 18 of whom he infected -- even though they knew he had a serious and highly-transmittable disease. They said they had to "in compliance with federal regulations."

Businesses, which are also under an obligation to protect the interests of the public by not employing persons who are potentially dangerous, are caught in the middle. They are subject to being sued if they "discriminate" against the disabled, and sued if an employee causes injury to a citizen.

Source: Walter Olsen (Manhattan Institute), "Disabling America," National Review, May 5, 1997.


Browse more articles on Government Issues