Requiring Sleep Study for Truck Drivers with BMI over 35 did not Violate ADA

October 17, 2016

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court decision dismissing an employee’s claim that being required to undergo a sleep study violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Hired as a truck driver in 2006, the Employee was subject to medical exams every two years as required under regulations issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) of the Department of Transportation (DOT).

In 2008, two FMCSA advisory committees recommended the FMCSA change certification standards to reduce the risks, including daytime sleepiness, from drivers who have obstructive sleep apnea. The committees recommended that drivers with a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 35 receive only conditional DOT certification and undergo an additional examination for obstructive sleep apnea. In 2010, the Employer began a sleep apnea program based on the recommendations and required drivers at risk for obstructive sleep apnea to undergo in-lab sleep studies. This was required of drivers who had BMIs of 35 or greater or drivers whose physician recommended a sleep study.

At the Employee’s most recent DOT physical, his BMI was over 35. He visited a certified physician assistant who was not affiliated with the employer and who wrote a prescription stating that he did "not feel it is medically necessary" for the Employee to have a sleep study. Nonetheless, when the Employee refused the Employer’s sleep study, he was terminated. The Court held that the Employer did not violate the ADA when it required the Employee to undergo a sleep study because doing so was job-related and justified by business necessity.