WASHINGTON (FNS) -- Albertson's, Boise, Idaho, scored a legal victory last week in a Supreme Court decision here narrowing the scope of employer obligations under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
al device or medication, or even with the compensatory abilities of their own bodies, are not covered by the 1990 Act.
In the Albertson's case, the Supreme Court ruled that a truck driver who was dismissed for not meeting federal vision standards couldn't sue the company to get his job back, even though he had received a waiver from the federal government from the standards.
Hallie Kirkingburg, who had worked in Albertson's Portland, Ore., warehouse, has amblyopia, an uncorrectable condition that leaves him with 20/200 vision in his left eye, which means that he effectively only has vision in one eye. Before joining Albertson's, he had worked as a truck driver for more than 10 years. When he joined the company, a doctor mistakenly certified that he met U.S. Department of Transportation vision standards. At a physical two years later, his vision was correctly assessed, and he was fired.
Kirkingburg then applied for and received a waiver from those standards, granted for drivers whose driving record showed no major infractions for three years. Albertson's, however, refused to rehire him.
Kirkingburg sued his former employer and won his case on appeal. The Ninth Circuit Court ruled that Albertson's could not claim that it fired Kirkingburg because of government regulations and then ignore the waiver.
The Supreme Court gave two principal reasons for overturning the lower court ruling. It said that simply because Kirkingburg's vision was different from others, he did not necessarily have a disability, even though his condition caused him to fail an eye exam. The court went on to say that because Kirkingburg had apparently learned to compensate unconsciously for his lack of depth perception, he was no more disabled than someone whose vision could be corrected by wearing glasses. Even if Kirkingburg could be considered disabled under the terms of the ADA, the court said, Albertson's was not required to participate in the waiver program, which it called "simply an experiment proposed as a means of collecting data" to determine whether the vision standards should be changed.