Companies Can Fire Employees They Deem Too Risky

When Green Bay, Wis.-based trucking company Schneider National inducted Jerome Hoefner into the company's Million Mile Club in 2002, an award given to those who have driven 1 million miles without an accident, it seemed as though Hoefner's employment with Schneider was secure. However, after Hoefner had a fainting spell later that year, Schneider summarily fired him as "a matter of safety."

Doctors diagnosed Hoefner with a rare disorder called "neurocardiogenic syncope." Schneider has a zero-tolerance policy against hiring drivers with that disorder because it could cause them to faint while manning one of Schneider's trucks. The EEOC took Hoefner's case and argued that the disorder is a disability under the ADA for which Schneider could not fire Hoefner.

"Posner says, and rightly so, that companies are entitled to determine how much risk they want," says Elena Baca, chair of Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker's Los Angeles office. "And he looks beyond the decision and acknowledges the repercussions that could arise."

The court supported its decision with the 2002 case Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal, in which the Supreme Court found that Chevron did not violate the ADA when it fired a man with liver damage because his continued employment could further compromise his health.

staff Writer

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