Litigation Materials from Diabetes Discrimination Cases

Atkins v. Salazar
Plaintiff with type 1 diabetes was removed from his position as a law enforcement park ranger with the National Park Service because of a doctors' unsupported opinion that his diabetes was "uncontrolled" and therefore he could not meet NPS medical standards. After an unfavorable district court decision, the ADA filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiff before the 5th Circuit. In December 2011, the court affirmed the district court's decision.

Boice v. Southeastern Pa. Transp. Authority
Plaintiff claimed that defendant failed to accommodate his type 2 diabetes by transferring him from day shift to relief shift, which made his diabetes more difficult to control, and by denying him use of a parking space near his work site. The defendant argued that plaintiff failed to properly request a reasonable accommodation, but the court held that plaintiff’s informal requests to his supervisor were sufficient.

Branham v. Snow (originally Branham v. O'Neill)
Plaintiff with type 1 diabetes was not promoted to position of Special Agent with the Internal Revenue Service because of his diabetes. District court granted summary judgment to defendant, holding that plaintiff was not substantially limited by his condition. The Seventh Circuit ultimately reversed, holding that plaintiff had raised issues of fact as to whether he had a disability and as to whether he was otherwise qualified for the position despite the defendant's safety concerns. After trial, the jury returned a verdict in plaintiff's favor.

Darnell v. Thermafiber (2004)
Plaintiff was rejected for a position in defendant's factory based on the opinion of the physician hired by defendant to conduct plaintiff's medical examination. The physician concluded that plaintiff's diabetes was "uncontrolled" and that plaintiff was a safety risk, despite having no scientific evidence to support this conclusion and despite plantiff's good work history. The district court granted defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that plaintiff posed an unacceptable safety risk because of his "uncontrolled" diabetes. The Association filed an amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiff, but the Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's decision.

Davis v. Ozarks Electric Cooperative
The plaintiff was terminated from her job after she requested to be temporarily excused from "on call" work outside of her normal shift while she got her newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes under control. In denying defendant's motion for summary judgment, the court held that plaintiff could prove that the defendant regarded her as disabled because of the unfounded assumptions by its decisionmakers that her diabetes posed a safety risk, and that defendant had failed to prove that being "on call" to work overtime was an essential function of plaintiff's job.

Dybvik v. Potter
The EEOC found that the U.S. Postal Service failed to accommodate an employee’s need to take breaks to care for his diabetes. The employee was terminated after supervisors expressed concerns about his performance which specifically related to the number of breaks he took for diabetes care. An administrative law judge ruled in his favor, and the commission later affirmed.

EEOC/Armstrong v. Northwest Airlines
The EEOC brought suit on behalf of a person with type 1 diabetes who applied for a baggage handler position but was rejected due to his diabetes. The court rejected defendant's motion for summary judgment, finding issues of fact as to whether Armstrong was regarded as disabled and was qualified for the job. Subsequently, a jury trial resulted in a verdict in Armstrong's favor.

EEOC/Keane v. Sears
Plaintiff, who has difficulty walking and uses a cane due to neuropathy, resigned from her position at Sears after it refused to accommodate her or engage in the interactive process by barring her from using a shortcut through the stockrooms of the store to reach her department. The district court initially granted defendant's motion for summary judgment, holding that plaintiff was not substantially limited in her ability to walk, but the Seventh Circuit reversed. On remand, the district court again found that plaintiff was not disabled, but on further appeal the Seventh Circuit again reversed, holding that a reasonable jury could find that the plaintiff’s extreme difficulty walking the length of one city block meant that she was substantially limited in the major life activity of walking.

EEOC/Landers v. Walmart Stores
Plaintiff, who has type 1 diabetes, was denied a lunch break by Walmart, resulting in constructive discharge. EEOC and plaintiff, as an intervenor, brought suit, resulting in a consent decree requiring Walmart to engage in the interactive process to accommodate employees with disabilities and otherwise meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

EEOC v. Northwest Airlines
The EEOC sued Northwest Airlines based on its blanket policy excluding individuals who use insulin from baggage handler positions. The parties entered into a settlement agreement which required the airline to end its blanket ban.

Fraser v. Goodale
The Ninth Circuit reversed a grant of summary judgment to defendant against plaintiff with type 1 diabetes because plaintiff did not have a disability. Plaintiff had been told by her supervisor that she could not eat at her desk and that same day had a dangerously low blood glucose level resulting in unconsciousness, and was subsequently terminated. The appeals court held that she had presented sufficient evidence to show that she was substantially limited in eating.

Izzi v. UPS
Plaintiff was prevented from driving UPS delivery vehicles after he began using insulin. The court denied summary judgment to UPS, holding that it had failed to prove that the ability to drive all vehicles in the UPS fleet was an essential function of all driving jobs or that it would not be reasonable to provide plaintiff with driving work in a vehicle he was permitted to drive.

Johnston v. MidMichigan Medical Center
Plaintiff was disciplined and terminated from his job based on incidents which defendant believed were related to his type 1 diabetes. The court denied summary judgment to the defendant because plaintiff could show that he was regarded as disabled based on statements in his personnel file. These comments suggested that concerns about his performance began only after his manager became concerned about his diabetes and that his manager never sought a medical evaluation of his condition but simply assumed that any performance issues were due to diabetes.

Kapche v. City of San Antonio
Plaintiff was rejected for a police officer position solely because he uses insulin. The Fifth Circuit reversed a grant of summary judgment to the city, overruling prior case law which had upheld a blanket ban against people who use insulin in driving positions, and requiring the district court to consider whether, if individually assessed, plaintiff could perform the essential functions of the position. After the district court again granted summary judgment for the defendant, the Fifth Circuit again reversed, reaffirming its prior holding requiring that plaintiff be individually assessed for his ability to perform the position.

Kapche v. Holder
Plaintiff, who has type 1 diabetes, was rejected in his bid to be an FBI special agent because of his use of insulin injections rather than an insulin pump. Plaintiff brought suit under the Rehabilitation Act, and, after a jury trial, was awarded compensatory damages. On appeal, the government challenged the trial court’s finding that Kapche has a disability, while Kapche challenges the district ‘court’s denial of front pay due to after acquired evidence. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the lower court's judgment.

Kaufman v. Western Sugar
Plaintiff was disciplined and terminated from his job based on incidents which defendant believed were related to his type 1 diabetes. The court found that plaintiff worked as an electrician and requested a change from a rotating shift to a straight day shift, which his doctors had recommended to help him better control his diabetes. Defendant argued that this accommodation would pose an undue hardship and that working a rotating shift was an essential job function. The case was settled before the close of trial.

Klise v. UPS
Plaintiff worked as a mechanic for UPS until he began using insulin to treat his diabetes, at which time the company removed him from his mechanic position. UPS requires all mechanics to obtain medical certification that they meet Department of Transportation medical guidelines for commercial drivers, even though they rarely, if ever, drive vehicles commercially. Plaintiff sued, claiming that medical certification was not an essential job function and that UPS had failed to accommodate his disability.

Lawson v. CSX Transportation (2000)
Plaintiff with type 1 diabetes, retinopathy, and a history of hypoglycemia, was rejected for a position as a train conductor despite successfully completing a conductor training program and despite his doctor's opinion that he was medically qualified. Reversing the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant, the Seventh Circuit held that a jury could find that plaintiff is substantially limited in the major life activity of eating and that he has a record of a disability due to the measures he must take to manage his diabetes.

Nawrot v. CPC International (2000)
Plaintiff, who has type 1 diabetes, a history of hypoglycemia, and neuropathy in his feet, requested the ability to take breaks to test his blood glucose and treat hypoglycemia, which his employer denied; after he filed an EEOC complaint he was fired, allegedly due to poor behavior. The lower court granted summary judgment to the defendant, finding that plaintiff did not have a disability, and failed to show that the defendant’s stated reason for the termination was pretextual. The Seventh Circuit reversed and held that a jury could find that plaintiff was substantially limited in thinking and caring for himself.

Nordwall v. Sears
Seventh Circuit affirmed district court's grant of summary judgment to defendant, holding that plaintiff, who has type 1 diabetes, did not establish that diabetes substantially limits her capability to work or care for herself. The court reached this decision despite evidence (presented by appellant and by the Association in its amicus brief) that plaintiff's diabetes required a demanding and continuous treatment regimen and still caused numerous episodes of blackouts and dizziness.

Rodriguez v. ConAgra Grocery Products
Plaintiff with type 2 diabetes was not hired when defendant's doctor determined he was unqualified for a position at a manufacturing plant based on a cursory examination and the results of a urine glucose test. The Fifth Circuit reversed summary judgment for the defendant and granted summary judgment to the plaintiff, holding that defendant had regarded plaintiff as disabled because of its belief that he was unable to perform any jobs for defendant.

Samson v. Federal Express Corp.
Defendant withdrew plaintiff's job offer for a mechanic position because plaintiff could not meet federal medical standards to drive commercial motor vehicles, even though the job did not require driving in interstate commerce and even though a process was available to get an exemption to the standards. The district court granted summary judgment to defendant, and the Association filed an amicus brief supporting plaintiff in the Eleventh Circuit.

Simms v. City of New York
Defendant placed plaintiff firefighter on light duty (thus cutting down his chances for overtime and other benefits). Both plaintiff and defendant moved for partial summary judgment. The issues addressed in the case were whether plaintiff had a disability, whether he was qualified to be a firefighter, and whether he posed a direct threat because of his diabetes. The court granted plaintiff’s motion in part and denied defendant's motion.

Steigauf v. UPS
Plaintiff worked as a mechanic for UPS until he began using insulin to treat his diabetes, at which time the company removed him from his mechanic position. UPS requires all mechanics to obtain medical certification that they meet Department of Transportation medical guidelines for commercial drivers, even though they rarely, if ever, drive vehicles commercially. Plaintiff sued, claiming that medical certification was not an essential job function and that UPS had failed to accommodate his disability. The case subsequently settled.

United States v. City of North Kansas City, Missouri
The Department of Justice settled a case involving an individual with insulin-treated diabetes who was rejected for a firefighting/paramedic position with the City of North Kansas City, despite being cleared for the position by the City's own medical examiner, and ranking as the top applicant.

United States v. Mississippi Department of Public Safety
The Department of Justice successfully settled a case involving a Mississippi state police cadet who was denied accommodations (including food) at the academy – and, when he became hypoglycemic, was immediately dismissed from the academy. In addition to monetary compensation, the settlement required that Mississippi implement a reasonable accommodation policy, train its training officers on the policy and on recognizing diabetes and other disabilities, and incorporate an overview of diabetes into its existing curriculum for training of troopers and future cadets.

Wise v. Akal Security
Plaintiff was removed from his position as a court security officer protecting federal judges and court staff because the U. S. Marshals Service believed that his hemoglobin A1C value was too high. The USMS made this decision despite evidence that plaintiff could safely perform the job and a lack of scientific or medical evidence supporting the use of blanket bans of individuals with high A1C values. The case was settled, with the USMS changing the way it evaluates people with diabetes and agreeing to conduct individualized assessments.

 

  • Last Reviewed: February 20, 2014
  • Last Edited: February 20, 2014

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