No – the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that a driver who does not satisfy the requirements for commercial drivers established by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is a not a qualified individual with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In Williams v. J.B. Hunt Transport, Inc., the plaintiff was a commercial truck driver who fainted at his home one day and was later diagnosed with syncope and an irregular heartbeat. No. 15-20610 (5th Cir. June 20, 2016). Following this diagnosis, the plaintiff’s DOT medical certification was rescinded. In response, the employer sent a letter to the plaintiff requesting more information and a return-to-work date. The plaintiff never provided this information. After the plaintiff’s medical leave expired, the employer terminated his employment, and the plaintiff sued for alleged violation of the ADA.
In analyzing the plaintiff’s claims, the Fifth Circuit noted that several other federal circuit courts – the Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Circuits – have each held that a commercial driver who does not satisfy DOT requirements is not a qualified individual with a disability. The court agreed with this reasoning and concluded that “[b]ecause 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.”
Takeaway: Employees who are not qualified to perform the essential functions of their jobs, such as complying federal DOT regulations, with or without accommodation, are generally not able to bring successful ADA claims.