746 F.3d 1196 (11th Cir. 2014), 12-14145, Samson v. Federal Express Corporation

Docket Nº:12-14145
Citation:746 F.3d 1196
Opinion Judge:HUCK, District Judge
Party Name:RICHARD SAMSON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee
Attorney:For Richard Samson, Plaintiff - Appellant: Ephraim Roy Hess, Ephraim Roy Hess, PA, Davie, FL; Craig L. Berman, Berman Law Firm, PA, Saint Petersburg, FL. For Federal Express Corporation, Defendant - Appellee: Frederick L. Douglas, Federal Express Corporation, Memphis, TN; Carol A. Dwyer Defreitas...
Judge Panel:Before MARTIN and HILL, Circuit Judges, and HUCK,[*] District Judge. HILL, Circuit Judge, dissenting. HILL, Circuit Judge, dissenting:
Case Date:March 26, 2014
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
 
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Page 1196

746 F.3d 1196 (11th Cir. 2014)

RICHARD SAMSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

FEDERAL EXPRESS CORPORATION, Defendant-Appellee

No. 12-14145

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

March 26, 2014

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. D.C. Docket No. 2:11-cv-00006-UA-DNF.

For Richard Samson, Plaintiff - Appellant: Ephraim Roy Hess, Ephraim Roy Hess, PA, Davie, FL; Craig L. Berman, Berman Law Firm, PA, Saint Petersburg, FL.

For Federal Express Corporation, Defendant - Appellee: Frederick L. Douglas, Federal Express Corporation, Memphis, TN; Carol A. Dwyer Defreitas, Irvine, CA; Jeffrey B. Jones, Littler Mendelson PC, Orlando, FL.

For American Diabetes Association, Amicus Curiae: John Wallace Griffin Jr., Marek Griffin & Knaupp, Victoria, TX.

Before MARTIN and HILL, Circuit Judges, and HUCK,[*] District Judge. HILL, Circuit Judge, dissenting.

OPINION

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HUCK, District Judge

Appellant Richard Samson--a Type-1 insulin-dependent diabetic--appeals summary judgment for Appellee Federal Express Corporation on his disability discrimination claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq., and its Florida counterpart, the Florida Civil Rights Act (" FCRA" ), Fla. Stat. § 760.01, et seq . In 2009, FedEx offered Samson, an experienced vehicle mechanic, a job as a Senior Global Vehicle Technician/DOT/CDL (" Technician" ) at its airport facility in Fort Myers, Florida. FedEx conditioned the offer on, among other things, Samson passing a Department of Transportation (" DOT" ) medical examination--which the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (" FMCSRs" ) require for commercial motor

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vehicle drivers who transport property or passengers in interstate commerce. When Samson failed his DOT medical examination due to his diabetes, FedEx withdrew Samson's job offer since he did not qualify for the Technician position. FedEx claimed that the FMCSRs required it to do so.

Samson then sued FedEx for disability discrimination. The crux of Samson's claims was that " [i]n imposing a requirement that Samson must obtain a DOT [medical] card even though he would be a mechanic and not a commercial truck driver, FedEx violated the ADA [and the FCRA], which prohibit[] an employer from using qualification standards that screen out people with disabilities." After discovery closed, FedEx moved for summary judgment. FedEx argued that Samson was not " qualified" for the Technician position because he failed his DOT medical examination; consequently, Samson could not perform the " essential function" of test-driving FedEx trucks " with or without reasonable accommodation." FedEx also contended that the FMCSRs provided a complete defense to Samson's claims because the regulations obliged FedEx to require a successful DOT medical examination as a prerequisite of the job. The district court agreed and granted summary judgment for FedEx on both grounds. However, because our de novo review of the record shows that summary judgment was improper, we reverse and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. BACKGROUND

FedEx provides package delivery services nationwide. FedEx's aircraft transport packages from locations throughout the United States into and out of several Florida airports, including the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers, Florida. The packages are then unloaded from the aircraft, sorted for destination to various locations, and loaded onto FedEx tractor-trailers and straight trucks. These trucks then transport the packages to other FedEx facilities within Florida and, eventually, to recipients.

FedEx employs Technicians at its airport facilities to maintain, troubleshoot, and repair its trucks. On February 11, 2009, Samson--a vehicle mechanic with about twenty-nine years of experience--applied online for FedEx's sole Technician position at its Fort Myers airport facility. According to FedEx's online job description, " [t]he successful candidate will provide timely, quality maintenance for FedEx vehicle fleet and ground support equipment including preventative maintenance, troubleshooting, repairs modifications and documentation." The job description also listed the following requirements:

High school diploma/GED. Four years recent fleet, automotive, or truck vehicle maintenance experience. Must possess applicable licenses or have vocational training. Knowledge of the use and operation of all automotive equipment and testing equipment gauges and tools normally associated with the troubleshooting and repair of hydraulic, gasoline and diesel automotive equipment. Possession of a complete set of hand tools including metric sizes. Must be able to lift and maneuver heavy vehicle components. Ability to work without supervision for extended time periods. Must possess a valid driver's license and be at least 21 years of age. Must meet qualifications as outlined in section 391 of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. Requires medical exam in accordance with FHWA or FAA regulations . Must also have light to heavy truck experience. Job offers are contingent upon successful completion

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of required examinations/checks for the particular position (e.g., drug screen, medical examinations in accordance with FHWA regulations, criminal record check, etc.) .

(emphasis added).

On March 10, 2009, after an interview, FedEx sent Samson--the best candidate--a letter offering him the Technician position. The letter, signed by Mahase Madoo, the District Fleet Manager, stated that " this job offer is contingent upon your successful completion of a DOT medical examination . . . and upon your receiving a Florida issued class A [commercial driver's license] within 90 days of your actual starting date in this position as required for this position." Samson signed the offer letter, accepting the position and its terms. At that time, Samson already held a Florida-issued Class B commercial driver's license.1

On March 11, 2009, Samson appeared for his DOT medical examination. During the examination, Samson disclosed to the medical examiner that he is a Type-1 insulin-dependent diabetic. Because insulin-dependent diabetics are automatically disqualified from being medically certified as physically qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce under the FMCSRs, absent an exemption, Samson failed his medical examination. See 49 C.F.R. § 391.41(b)(3) (" A person is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if that person . . . [h]as no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of diabetes mellitus currently requiring insulin for control." ); see also id . § 391.43(f) (" If insulin is necessary to control a diabetic driver's condition, the driver is not qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce." ).

On March 16, 2009, Janet Johnson, a FedEx recruiter, emailed Madoo and others at FedEx asking whether they were legally obligated to inform Samson of the Federal Diabetes Exemption Program, see U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/topics/medical/exemptions.htm (last visited Jan. 3, 2014):

As mentioned, [Samson] applied for a DOT Sr. Global Vehicle Technician position in Fort Myers, Florida. After his DOT physical exam was completed on 3/12/09 he called me to say that he is on insulin and wanted to know if that was a problem. I said I would need to contact Memphis and would call him back. You and MRO mentioned a " Federal Diabetic Waiver" . . . . Are we legally obligated to mention this waiver to him?

Two days later, FedEx sent Samson a letter withdrawing his job offer solely because he had failed his DOT medical examination. The next day, Samson emailed Madoo and John Durr, a FedEx Senior Manager, asking them to reconsider their decision. Samson wrote that he felt " discriminated against for being a diabetic" because he applied for a job as a Technician, not as an interstate truck driver.

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Samson also claims that he spoke with Madoo, who told him " we don't hire diabetics." Madoo himself, however, is a Type-2 diabetic who treats his condition with insulin.

On April 2, 2009, Durr replied to Samson's email by explaining FedEx's belief that the FMCSRs required it to withdraw Samson's job offer after he failed his DOT medical examination:

Our vehicle mechanic positions are governed under Federal DOT regulations since we operate in all 50 dates [sic]. It was the company's decision to be governed by Federal Guidelines rather than the various state regulations so we would not have to try and manage 50 sets of state regulations. Unfortunately, Federal DOT Guidelines prohibit hiring anyone that is insulin dependent.

FedEx eventually hired John Rotundo--the second best candidate--for the Technician position. During his approximately three years on the job, Rotundo has only test-driven FedEx trucks three times. He has never driven one across state lines. Nor has he ever driven one carrying cargo. On one additional occasion, another FedEx employee drove while Rotundo...

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