Disability discrimination claim of diagnosed epileptic worker is tossed by Court of Appeals
Kevin Cunningham worked for USF Holland, Inc. in Holland as a driver/dock worker from 1994 through 2009. In 2005, he suffered two seizures. Under federal law, a commercial driver must possess a Department of Transportation Medical Examiner's Certificate, and to obtain one, the driver must be seizure free for ten years without anti-seizure medication. The employer placed him on "as needed--dock worker only" status.
In an effort to return to work, in 2009 Cunningham disclosed only one of the 2005 seizures, denied that he continued to take anti-seizure medications, and obtained an MEC. When he obtained a renewal MEC the following year, the company detected a discrepancy in his seizure history and suspended his driving privileges. When they detected the falsified information in his medical history, the company fired Cunningham. He filed a grievance and ultimately a disability discrimination claim under the People With Disabilities Civil Rights Act.
The trial judge dismissed Cunningham's claim and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The holding was based on the statutory definition of a "disability:" it must be "unrelated to the individual's ability to perform the duties of a particular job." Since Cunningham could not drive without an MEC and was not eligible, under federal regulations, to obtain an MEC, his seizure condition could be considered in employing him without the company violating the PWDCRA. Simply, he was not "otherwise qualified" to work as a commercial driver.