Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73 (2002)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 00-1406. Argued February 27, 2002—Decided June 10, 2002

Respondent Echazabal worked for independent contractors at one of petitioner Chevron U. S. A. Inc.'s oil refineries until Chevron refused to hire him because of a liver condition—which its doctors said would be exacerbated by continued exposure to toxins at the refinery—and the contractor employing him laid him off in response to Chevron's request that it reassign him to a job without exposure to toxins or remove him from the refinery. Echazabal filed suit, claiming, among other things, that Chevron's actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Chevron defended under an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulation permitting the defense that a worker's disability on the job would pose a direct threat to his health. The District Court granted Chevron summary judgment, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, finding that the regulation exceeded the scope of permissible rulemaking under the ADA.

Held: The ADA permits the EEOC's regulation. Pp. 78-87.

(a) The ADA's discrimination definition covers a number of things an employer might do to block a disabled person from advancing in the workplace, such as "using qualification standards . . . that screen out or tend to screen out [such] an individual," 42 U. S. C. 12112(b)(6). And along with 12113(a), the definition creates an affirmative defense for action under a qualification standard "shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity," which "may include a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals in the workplace," 12113(b). The EEOC's regulation carries the defense one step further, allowing an employer to screen out a potential worker with a disability for risks on the job to his own health or safety. Pp. 78-79.

(b) Echazabal relies on the canon expressio unius exclusio alterius— expressing one item of an associated group excludes another left unmentioned—for his argument that the ADA, by recognizing only threats to others, precludes the regulation as a matter of law. The first strike against the expression-exclusion rule here is in the statute, which includes the threat-to-others provision as an example of legitimate qualifications that are "job-related and consistent with business necessity." These spacious defensive categories seem to give an agency a good deal


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