High court refuses to review driver’s sleep apnea suit

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case involving a truck driver who claimed his employer discriminated against him by requiring him to take a sleep apnea test.

The court’s decision let stand an appeals court ruling that the trucking company had the right to screen certain drivers for sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep.

Because the disorder disrupts normal sleep, those affected are often sleepy or tired during the day, which could adversely affect a commercial motor vehicle driver.

Driver Robert Parker, who was suspended from driving by Crete Carrier Corp. when he refused to submit to sleep apnea testing, sued the trucking company in 2013 for wrongfully terminating him in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Crete has required sleep apnea testing since 2010 for all drivers with a body mass index, or BMI, of 35 or higher.

BMI is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. A person with a BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Parker, saying Crete did not violate his rights by requiring him to undergo a sleep study because he had a body mass index of 35 or higher.

Parker petitioned the Supreme Court in February of this year to review the lower court’s ruling, but the high court refused the petition last month without comment.

The decision to let the appeals court ruling stand means that motor carriers could consider adopting similar sleep apnea screening programs with less fear of being sued by drivers seeking to avoid such testing.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration proposed a rule a year ago that could eventually lead to a requirement that commercial motor vehicle operators test certain drivers for sleep apnea, but the agency has yet to pursue a final rule on the issue.

FMCSA medical advisers had recommended that drivers with BMIs greater than 35 receive conditional certification and undergo an additional examination for sleep apnea. However, the agency’s Medical Review Board recently revised the recommendation to a BMI of 40 or above as one of the risk factors for sleep apnea.

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