Court sides with Crete in sleep study lawsuit

By Mark Schremmer, Land Line staff writer | 10/17/2016

An appeals court ruled that Crete Carrier had the legal right to suspend a driver after he refused to undergo testing to see if he suffered from obstructive sleep apnea.

The unanimous decision was submitted by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit on Oct. 12. The driver, Robert J. Parker, contended that Crete was unfairly singling him out because of his weight.

In July 2013, Crete told Parker that it was scheduling him for an in-lab sleep study because of his size. Crete required sleep studies for drivers with a body mass index of 35 or more. Parker’s most recent Department of Transportation physical at the time, listed his BMI as above 35. According to court documents, he weighed 311 pounds and was 6’5” tall, equating to a 36.9 BMI.

On July 11, 2013, Parker visited a certified physician assistant not affiliated with Crete. Eleven days later, the physician’s assistant wrote a prescription that stated “I do not feel it is medically necessary for Robert to have a sleep study.”

The next week, Parker refused to undergo Crete’s sleep study. Crete responded by taking Parker out of service and did not reinstate him even after receiving the note from the physician assistant.

Parker, who joined Crete as an over-the-road truck driver in 2006, sued the company, alleging it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by requiring the examination and discriminating on the basis of a perceived disability. Parker also contended that he had no documented sleep issues and that he was DOT certified with an accident-free record and top-trainer awards.

“When an employer requires a class of employees to submit to a medical exam, it also must show that it has reasons consistent with business necessity for defining the class in the way that it has,” the court wrote. “An employer satisfies this burden by showing a reasonable basis for concluding that the class poses a genuine safety risk and the exam requirement allows the employer to decrease that risk effectively.”

Crete argued that drivers with a body mass index of 35 or above have been proven more likely to have sleep apnea and that sleep apnea increases the risk of crashing. The court said Parker offered no evidence to the contrary.

“Crete carries its burden of showing it defined the class reasonably,” the court wrote. “The district court correctly granted Crete summary judgment on Parker’s medical examination claim.”

Copyright © OOIDA