Opinion of the Court
lation disallows just this sort of sham protection, through demands for a particularized enquiry into the harms the employee would probably face. The direct threat defense must be "based on a reasonable medical judgment that relies on the most current medical knowledge and/or the best available objective evidence," and upon an expressly "individualized assessment of the individual's present ability to safely perform the essential functions of the job," reached after considering, among other things, the imminence of the risk and the severity of the harm portended. 29 CFR § 1630.2(r) (2001). The EEOC was certainly acting within the reasonable zone when it saw a difference between rejecting work-place paternalism and ignoring specific and documented risks to the employee himself, even if the employee would take his chances for the sake of getting a job.6
rooted in generalities and misperceptions about disabilities. See, e. g., H. R. Rep. No. 101-485, at 74 ("Generalized fear about risks from the employment environment, such as exacerbation of the disability caused by stress, cannot be used by an employer to disqualify a person with a disability"); S. Rep. No. 101-116, p. 28 (1989) ("It would also be a violation to deny employment to an applicant based on generalized fears about the safety of the applicant . . . . By definition, such fears are based on averages and group-based predictions. This legislation requires individualized assessments").
Similarly, Echazabal points to several of our decisions expressing concern under Title VII, which like the ADA allows employers to defend otherwise discriminatory practices that are "consistent with business necessity," 42 U. S. C. § 2000e-2(k), with employers adopting rules that exclude women from jobs that are seen as too risky. See, e. g., Dothard v. Rawlinson, 433 U. S. 321, 335 (1977); Automobile Workers v. Johnson Controls, Inc., 499 U. S. 187, 202 (1991). Those cases, however, are beside the point, as they, like Title VII generally, were concerned with paternalistic judgments based on the broad category of gender, while the EEOC has required that judgments based on the direct threat provision be made on the basis of individualized risk assessments.
6 Respect for this distinction does not entail the requirement, as Echazabal claims, that qualification standards be "neutral," stating what the job requires, as distinct from a worker's disqualifying characteristics. Brief for Respondent 26. It is just as much business necessity for skyscraperPage: Index Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Next
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