56 F.3d 695 (5th Cir. 1995), 94-50212, Daugherty v. City of El Paso

Docket Nº:94-50212.
Citation:56 F.3d 695
Party Name:Carl DAUGHERTY, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. The CITY OF EL PASO, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:July 03, 1995
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 695

56 F.3d 695 (5th Cir. 1995)

Carl DAUGHERTY, Plaintiff-Appellee,


The CITY OF EL PASO, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 94-50212.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

July 3, 1995

Daniel H. Hernandez, Laura K. Norden, Asst. City Attys., El Paso, TX, for appellant.

Howard A. Hickman, Smith & Gopin, El Paso, TX, for appellee.

Page 696

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Before REAVLEY, GARWOOD and EMILIO M. GARZA, Circuit Judges.

REAVLEY, Circuit Judge:

Carl Daugherty was awarded a money judgment against the City of El Paso under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA or Act), 42 U.S.C. Secs. 12101-12213. We reverse and render.


In 1991 Daugherty was hired by the city as a "coach operator," i.e. a public bus driver. This position was a part-time permanent position under the city's civil service regime. In June of 1992 Daugherty was diagnosed as an insulin-dependent diabetic. As a result of this diagnosis the city placed him on a leave of absence without pay and relieved him of his job as a coach operator. As discussed further below, Daugherty does not argue, nor do we see, that the city violated the ADA by relieving Daugherty of his position as a coach operator upon his diagnosis. Instead, Daugherty argues that a violation occurred because the city failed to pursue a waiver of his disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle with the Department of Transportation, and failed to place him in another position on the city payroll.

After a jury trial, the court entered a judgment for $5000 in compensatory damages as found by the jury, together with backpay, interest and attorney's fees as determined by the court.


The city raises numerous arguments on appeal. Among them, it argues that Daugherty does not have a disability under the ADA, that he was not a "qualified individual with a disability," and that the city established as a defense that it acted in good faith to make a reasonable accommodation for Daugherty. To place these arguments in legal context, we briefly set out the relevant contours of the ADA.

The ADA expansively prohibits discrimination in employment against persons with a disability, providing that "[n]o covered entity shall discriminate against a qualified individual with a disability because of the disability of such individual in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment." 42 U.S.C. Sec. 12112(a). A "disability" includes "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual" and "being regarded as having such an impairment." Id. Sec. 12102(2).

A "qualified individual with a disability" means "an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires." Id. Sec. 12111(8). "Discrimination" includes "not making reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, unless such covered entity can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of such covered entity." Id. Sec. 12112(b)(5)(A). "The term 'reasonable accommodation' may include ... 'reassignment to a vacant position.' " Id. Sec. 12111(9) (emphasis added). However, "[i]t may be a defense to a charge of discrimination under this chapter that an alleged application of qualification standards ... that screen out or tend to screen out or otherwise deny a job ... to an individual with a disability has been shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity, and such performance cannot be accomplished by reasonable accommodation...." Id. Sec. 12113(a). " '[Q]ualification standards' may include a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals in the workplace." Id. Sec. 12113(b). "The term 'direct threat' means a significant risk to the health or safety of others that cannot be eliminated by reasonable accommodation." Id. Sec. 12111(3).

Page 697

The city argues that Daugherty's medical condition is not a disability under the ADA. Finding other issues dispositive, we pretermit the question of whether insulin-dependent diabetes, either as a general matter or under the specific facts of this case, constitutes a disability under the Act. 1

A. Qualified Individual with a Disability

The city argues that Daugherty was not a qualified individual...

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