136 F.3d 854 (1st Cir. 1998), 97-1781, Arnold v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

Docket Nº:97-1781.
Citation:136 F.3d 854
Party Name:Glen ARNOLD, Plaintiff, Appellant, v. UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., Defendant, Appellee.
Case Date:February 20, 1998
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

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136 F.3d 854 (1st Cir. 1998)

Glen ARNOLD, Plaintiff, Appellant,


UNITED PARCEL SERVICE, INC., Defendant, Appellee.

No. 97-1781.

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

February 20, 1998

Heard Nov. 7, 1997.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Peter L. Thompson, Franfort, KY, with whom Law Offices of Ronald Coles, were on brief, for appellant.

Barbara L. Sloan, with whom C. Gregory Stewart, General Counsel, J. Ray Terry, Jr., Deputy General Counsel, Memphis, TN, Gwendolyn Young Reams, Associate General Counsel, Washington, DC, and Vincent J. Blackwood, Assistant General Counsel, Washington, DC, were on brief, for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, amicus curiae.

Charles W. March, Sunenblick, Reben, Benjamin & March, Portland, ME, on brief, for American Diabetes Association, amicus curiae.

S. Mason Pratt, Jr., Portland, ME, with whom Catherine R. Connors, Brent G.T. Geraty, Pierce, Atwood, Scribner, Allen, Smith & Lancaster, Portland, ME, were on brief, for appellee.

Loretta M. Smith, Winthrop, MA, on brief, for New England Legal Foundation, amicus curiae.

Before STAHL, Circuit Judge, ALDRICH and BOWNES, Senior Circuit Judges.

BOWNES, Senior Circuit Judge.

Glen Arnold brought this action against United Parcel Service, Inc. (UPS), alleging that UPS refused to hire him because of his disability, diabetes mellitus, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. The district court granted summary judgment to UPS, on the ground that Arnold had not shown that he had a disability and therefore was not protected by the ADA's antidiscrimination provision. In making its determination, the court considered Arnold's diabetes in its treated state, after taking into account the ameliorative effects of his insulin medication. Arnold appeals, arguing that such an analysis was legally erroneous, inconsistent with the ADA and with the EEOC's interpretive regulations. He also argues that the facts he has introduced prove that he satisfies the statutory definition of an "individual with a disability," and that UPS has failed to demonstrate that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. UPS argues that the district court's analysis of Arnold's disability was proper, including its consideration of ameliorative medication. As an alternative ground for upholding the grant of summary judgment, UPS contends that federal regulations required it to deny Arnold's application for employment, and UPS is thereby entitled to judgment as a matter of law. We reverse and remand.


Because this is an appeal from a grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant UPS, we state the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, Arnold. Dubois v. United States Dep't of Agriculture, 102 F.3d 1273, 1284 (1st Cir.1996), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 117 S.Ct. 2510, 138 L.Ed.2d 1013 (1997). Plaintiff-Appellant Glen Arnold has Type I insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. As such, he is required to monitor his blood glucose levels throughout the day, and give himself injections of insulin two to four times a day. He is also required to pay constant attention to possible signs of hypoglycemia, and to follow a strict diet and exercise regimen to control the disease. His physician states that Arnold would die in the absence of his insulin injections. Arnold has successfully controlled his diabetes for twenty-three years.

In October, 1995, Arnold telephoned a human resources representative at UPS about

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applying for the position of "cover mechanic." The position called for covering the shifts of night-time mechanics in four locations: Wells, Maine, and Dover, Laconia, and Twin Mountain, New Hampshire. Arnold had worked as an automotive mechanic for six years, and had obtained an associate degree in automotive technology.

After the initial phone conversation, Arnold met in person with both the human resources representative for UPS, Paul Tanguay, and with John Kennedy, UPS's fleet supervisor for its North New Hampshire division. By all accounts, both meetings went well. As a result, Kennedy indicated to Arnold that the job was his if he wanted it.

The next day, Arnold contacted Kennedy, and said that he wanted the job. The two agreed on an October 16, 1995 start date. Arnold was informed shortly thereafter that he would be required to pass a driving test, have his fingerprints taken, fill out additional paperwork, and submit to a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical. 1 On or about October 12, 1995, Arnold filled out the paperwork, was fingerprinted, and passed the driving test. He was then sent to a local health care facility, Seacoast Redicare, for the DOT physical. At the physical, Arnold, responding to a question from the physician, indicated that he was an insulin-dependent diabetic. The physician informed him that DOT regulations preclude insulin-dependent diabetics from obtaining the DOT certification required to operate commercial motor vehicles. On return to UPS, Tanguay informed Arnold that UPS could not hire him because he was unable to obtain DOT certification. Tanguay instead offered Arnold an alternate position, as a package "pre-loader," a position which provides substantially lower pay. Arnold did not respond to this alternate job offer.

Arnold instituted this action on October 9, 1996 in the United States District Court for the District of Maine under the ADA, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and the Maine Human Rights Act, 5 M.R.S.A. § 4551 et seq. On March 14, 1997, after discovery had been completed, UPS filed a motion for summary judgment. On May 5, 1997, Magistrate Judge David Cohen submitted his Recommended Decision, ruling in favor of UPS on the grounds that, because Arnold's diabetes was effectively controlled by insulin injections, he was not disabled within the meaning of the ADA. On May 30, 1997, the district court (Hornby, J.) affirmed Magistrate Judge Cohen's recommendation, and entered judgment in favor of UPS. This appeal followed.


The district court determined that, as a matter of law, Arnold was not disabled within the meaning of the ADA, because his insulin-dependent diabetic condition did not substantially limit one or more of his major life activities. 2 The district court addressed the question of substantial limitation by analyzing Arnold's diabetic condition after he took his ameliorative medications, rather than analyzing his unameliorated diabetes. For the reasons that follow, we think this analysis was erroneous as a matter of law.


The "starting point for interpretation of a statute 'is the language of the statute itself.' " Kaiser Aluminum & Chem. Corp. v. Bonjorno, 494 U.S. 827, 835, 110 S.Ct. 1570, 1575-76, 108 L.Ed.2d 842 (1990) (quoting Consumer Prod. Safety Comm'n v. GTE Sylvania, Inc., 447 U.S. 102, 108, 100 S.Ct. 2051, 2056, 64 L.Ed.2d 766 (1980)); see Telematics Int'l, Inc. v. NEMLC Leasing Corp., 967 F.2d 703, 706 (1st Cir.1992). If

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the language of a statute "is plain and admits of no more than one meaning" and "if the law is within the constitutional authority of the law-making body which passed it," then "the duty of interpretation does not arise" and "the sole function of the courts is to enforce the statute according to its terms." Caminetti v. United States, 242 U.S. 470, 485, 37 S.Ct. 192, 194, 61 L.Ed. 442 (1917); see also Chevron USA Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U.S. 837, 842-43, 104 S.Ct. 2778, 2781-82, 81 L.Ed.2d 694 (1984). The plain meaning of a statute's text must be given effect "unless it would produce an absurd result or one manifestly at odds with the statute's intended effect." Parisi by Cooney v. Chater, 69 F.3d 614, 617 (1st Cir.1995). Of course, we focus on "the plain meaning of the whole statute, not of isolated sentences." Beecham v. United States, 511 U.S. 368, 372, 114 S.Ct. 1669, 1671, 128 L.Ed.2d 383 (1994), and we interpret the statute's words " 'in light of the purposes Congress sought to serve,' " Dickerson v. New Banner Inst., Inc., 460 U.S. 103, 118, 103 S.Ct. 986, 995, 74 L.Ed.2d 845 (1983) (quoting Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Org., 441 U.S. 600, 608, 99 S.Ct. 1905, 1911, 60 L.Ed.2d 508 (1979)).

Thus, the district court is correct that we need not look into a statute's legislative history if the statutory language is plain, see Summit Inv. & Dev. Corp. v. Leroux, 69 F.3d 608, 610 (1st Cir.1995) ("Plain statutory language does not prompt recourse to countervailing legislative history."), at least in the absence of a "clearly expressed legislative intent to the contrary," 3 Dickerson, 460 U.S. at 110, 103 S.Ct. at 990 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted); United States v. Caron, 77 F.3d 1, 4 (1st Cir.1996). If the text is not unambiguously clear, however, we are obliged to turn to other sources to discern the legislature's meaning. One important source, of course, is the legislative history. If that history reveals an unequivocal answer, we do not look to the interpretation that may be given to the statute by the agency charged with its enforcement. Strickland v. Commissioner, Maine Dep't of Human Servs., 48 F.3d 12, 17 (1st Cir.1995) (applying the test of Chevron, 467 U.S. at 842-44, 104 S.Ct. at 2781-83). If the plain language and legislative history still leave some room for uncertainty about the statute's meaning, the court defers to the interpretation by an agency charged with enforcement of the statute, as long as that interpretation "flows rationally from a permissible construction of the statute." Id.; see Chevron, 467 U.S. at 843, 104 S.Ct. at 2781-82.


In the instant case, the statutory language is far from clear, particularly with respect to the key question in dispute here: should a court, in...

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