Epileptic Truck Driver Entitled to ADA Accommodation

By James Hatch

Aug. 1, 2006

Robert Dark began working for the Road Department of Curry County, Oregon, in 1985, operating heavy equipment and vehicles. Diagnosed with epilepsy at age 16, Dark controlled his condition with medication, but still experienced occasional seizures.

    On January 15, 2002, before reporting to work, Dark experienced an “aura,” which typically preceded an epileptic seizure by an hour or more approximately half of the time. Dark failed to tell anyone at work about the possibility of his suffering from a seizure, and he fell unconscious because of a seizure later that day while driving a truck at work. Although nobody was injured, a doctor retained by the county to examine Dark concluded that his condition imposed limitations on Dark’s ability to do his job.

    The county fired Dark, stating that he could not perform the essential functions and duties of his position, and that his continued employment posed a threat to the safety of others. Dark sued the county under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

    Reversing the federal district court’s dismissal of his claim, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit in Portland found that factual issues existed as to whether the county could have reasonably accommodated his condition, such as by a temporary reassignment or medical leave. Thus, Dark was entitled to a trial on his claim. Dark v. Curry County Road Dep’t, 9th Cir., No. 04-36087 (7/6/06).

    Impact: Employers are advised to always consider reasonable accommodations that may permit the continued employment of protected disabled employees.

Workforce Management, July 31, 2006, p. 11Subscribe Now!

Schedule, engage, and pay your staff in one system with