Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73, 5 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 73 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

hire him, or even to let him continue working in the plant, because of a disability, his liver condition.2 Chevron defended under a regulation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) permitting the defense that a worker's disability on the job would pose a "direct threat" to his health, see 29 CFR 1630.15(b)(2) (2001). Although two medical witnesses disputed Chevron's judgment that Echazabal's liver function was impaired and subject to further damage under the job conditions in the refinery, the District Court granted summary judgment for Chevron. It held that Echazabal raised no genuine issue of material fact as to whether the company acted reasonably in relying on its own doctors' medical advice, regardless of its accuracy.

On appeal, the Ninth Circuit asked for briefs on a threshold question not raised before, whether the EEOC's regulation recognizing a threat-to-self defense, ibid., exceeded the scope of permissible rulemaking under the ADA. 226 F. 3d 1063, 1066, n. 3 (2000). The Circuit held that it did and reversed the summary judgment. The court rested its position on the text of the ADA itself in explicitly recognizing an employer's right to adopt an employment qualification barring anyone whose disability would place others in the workplace at risk, while saying nothing about threats to the disabled employee himself. The majority opinion reasoned that "by specifying only threats to 'other individuals in the workplace,' the statute makes it clear that threats to other persons—including the disabled individual himself—are not included within the scope of the [direct threat] defense," id., at 1066-1067, and it indicated that any such regulation would unreasonably conflict with congressional policy against paternalism in the workplace, id., at 1067-1070. The court went on to reject Chevron's further argument that Echaza-2 Chevron did not dispute for purposes of its summary-judgment motion that Echazabal is "disabled" under the ADA, and Echazabal did not argue that Chevron could have made a " 'reasonable accommodation.' " App. 184, n. 6.

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