U.S. Supreme Court to Hear Argument in Another Test for ADA

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Lambda urges court to not dilute employee protections
February 27, 2002

(NEW YORK) —Lambda Legal, on behalf of the American Public Health Association, the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease, and several hepatitis-C education associations, is asking the United States Supreme Court to reject an employer’s argument that, under the ADA, it can fire a healthy worker with signs of liver disease because it considers chemical exposure on the job dangerous to his future health.

On Wednesday, February 27, at 10 a.m., the U.S. Supreme Court will hear argument in Chevron U.S.A. v. Mario Echazabal. Lambda AIDS Project Director Catherine Hanssens, author of Lambda’s public health brief, will be available for comment after the hearing.

“The ADA says that a person with a disability who is qualified for a job and doesn’t pose a threat to anybody else has the right to work,” said Hanssens. She added, “Chevron claims they denied Mr. Echazabal work for his own good, but the experts unanimously agreed that any threat of liver disease to Echazabal from chemicals in the refinery would be a danger to all employees.”

The ADA allows employers to exclude workers with disabilities when their disability poses a direct threat to others that can’t be addressed through a reasonable accommodation. Lambda maintains that the Americans with Disabilities Act does not allow the exclusion of skilled workers “for their own good” when the employer thinks a worker may face a future health risk as a consequence of the job.

Echazabal had worked for a contractor in Chevron’s El Segundo, California, oil refinery for approximately 20 years. When Echazabal applied to work directly for Chevron, it offered him a job – but withdrew it when Echazabal’s pre-employment tests showed elevated liver enzymes even though Echazabal had worked with his liver condition without incident for years.

“The ADA and worker safety policies require employers to safeguard the health of all of their employees,” Hanssens said. “Chevron instead chooses to focus on getting rid of employees when medical screening shows some defect. Are we really supposed to think that’s about protecting employees, and not about discrimination?”

Lambda is the oldest and largest legal organization dedicated to the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, the transgendered, and people with HIV or AIDS through impact litigation, education, and public policy work. Lambda has its headquarters in New York, regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta, and will open an office in Dallas in the summer of 2002.

WHAT: Oral argument in Chevron v. Echazabal, an ADA case
WHO: Lambda AIDS Project Director Catherine Hanssens is available for comment after hearing
WHERE: United States Supreme Court, One First Street, Washington, D.C.
WHEN: Wednesday, February 27, 2002 at 10:00 a.m.

(Chevron v. Echazabal, No. 00-1406)

Contact:Jennifer Grissom 212-809-8585 x 231, 888-987-1976 (pager)
Catherine Hanssens 212-809-8585 x 215



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