J.B. Hunt Driver With Heart Condition Loses ADA Claim

Daily Labor Report® is the objective resource the nation’s foremost labor and employment professionals read and rely on, providing reliable, analytical coverage of top labor and employment...

By Jay-Anne B. Casuga

June 21 — A J.B. Hunt Transport Inc. truck driver whose Transportation Department certification was rescinded after he fainted and was diagnosed with a heart condition can't proceed with a disability discrimination claim, a federal appeals court ruled ( Williams v. J.B. Hunt Transp., Inc. , 2016 BL 196721, 5th Cir., No. 15-20610, 6/20/16 ).

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit joined the Sixth, Seventh and Eighth circuits in rejecting the commercial driver's Americans with Disabilities Act claim where a doctor had found the driver medically unqualified and the driver didn't obtain a contrary opinion through the DOT's administrative process.

Here, Jimmie Williams's DOT certification was rescinded by a physician who reviewed a report noting that Williams had been diagnosed with syncope and ventricular tachycardia. The physician did so even though two other doctors had cleared Williams to return to work after medical leave.

Williams didn't file an application with the Transportation Department to resolve the conflict among the medical evaluations, and was terminated after his leave expired.

The Fifth Circuit agreed with a lower district court that Williams can't proceed with an ADA discrimination claim because he failed to show he was qualified to perform his job after he lost his DOT certification.

To qualify for the ADA's anti-bias protections, employees with disabilities must show that they can perform the essential functions of their jobs, with or without reasonable accommodation.

“Because he lacked the DOT certification required by federal law, J.B. Hunt could not let him return to driving, and the company’s administrative termination of Williams did not violate the ADA,” the court said.

Judge Stephen A. Higginson wrote the June 20 opinion, joined by Judges Jacques L. Wiener and Gregg Costa.

Cline Ahmad represented Williams. Littler Mendelson represented J.B. Hunt.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga in Washington at jcasuga@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.