Getting an attorney on board will definitely give you the best chance. You may also want to consider contacting the EEOC. Also, some food for thought...
Supreme Court Rules on Disabilities Case
Law Does Not Entitle People to Jobs That May Harm Their Health
By ANNE GEARAN
.c The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (June 10) - Disabled people cannot demand jobs that would threaten their lives or health, the Supreme Court said Monday in a victory for employers who argued they could be forced to hire people who would turn around and sue over workplace injuries.
The unanimous decision makes it clear that employers can turn away people who want a job even if they would be risking their lives to do it. The ruling also makes it easier to fire disabled people who already have jobs that put their health in jeopardy.
``If Typhoid Mary had come under the ADA, would a meat packer have been defenseless if Mary had sued after being turned away?'' Justice David H. Souter asked rhetorically in his opinion for the court.
The case is the latest in a line of rulings that limit worker rights under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the landmark 1990 civil rights law for the disabled. It is the second major ADA ruling this year that strengthened employers' hands while making it more difficult or impossible for some workers to claim the law gives them special protection.
Monday's case involved a former Chevron refinery worker with liver disease who wanted his job back, whether chemical exposure would worsen his condition or not. Mario Echazabal said he has no symptoms, can physically do the job and should be able to decide for himself.
The justices reversed a lower court ruling in favor of Echazabal and sent the case back for further review.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission struck the right balance between protections for workers and employers when it wrote regulations that applied in Echazabal's case, the court said.
The ADA requires employers to accommodate qualified disabled workers, but makes an exception for those who may be a threat to the safety or health of others on the job.
The EEOC, which can enforce the ADA in the workplace, has interpreted the exception as also applying to workers who may only be a risk to themselves.
Monday's ruling frees employers who were ``between a rock and a hard place,'' said Stephen Bokat, senior vice president and general counsel of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Employers worried they would be sued for rejecting disabled workers, and also open to lawsuits or prosecution under federal workplace safety laws. Business groups lined up behind Chevron in the case, as did the Bush administration.
``This is twice this year by 9-0 decisions that the court has made clear that they think the ADA was being read by the lower courts too broadly,'' Bokat said.
``It's 9-0. No one can say these are the conservative bloc or the right wing of the court or whatever rejecting employee rights. It's all the members of the court, left, right and central.''
In January, the court ruled against an assembly line worker with carpal tunnel syndrome. That case made it harder for workers to demand special treatment when they suffer partial disabilities that may impair them on the job but do not substantially affect day-to-day life.
In April, the court ruled 5-4 against an airline worker who wanted to go around the company seniority policy to claim a job that did not aggravate his back injury.
The latest ruling potentially applies to any employer, although lawyers said it will have the greatest effect in industrial settings such as the El Segundo, Calif., chemical plant where Echazabal worked for more than 20 years.
``There is a long history in this country of (employers) limiting the opportunities of people with disabilities out of a misplaced concern for the safety of those people,'' a response that Congress meant to forbid when it passed the ADA, said Samuel Bagenstos, Echazabal's lawyer at the high court.
The court did not give employers carte blanche to claim that a disabled employee is unable to do a job for health reasons. Each case must be evaluated on its own, using the latest medical guidelines, Souter wrote.
The ruling is in line with all six previous Supreme Court rulings testing the limits of the ADA on the job. In each, the employer won and the worker lost.
``The United States Supreme Court today once again demonstrated its fundamental hostility to disability rights in the workplace,'' said Andrew J. Imparato, president of the American Association of People with Disabilities.
George Crisci, a Cleveland labor and employment lawyer, predicts still more Supreme Court cases to refine what accommodations employers must make.
``There's more work to be done,'' Crisci said.
06/10/02 16:00 EDT