Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Echazabal, No. 00-1406.

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Citation536 U.S. 73
Decision Date10 June 2002
PartiesCHEVRON U. S. A. INC. <I>v.</I> ECHAZABAL.
Docket NumberNo. 00-1406.

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536 U.S. 73
CHEVRON U. S. A. INC.
v.
ECHAZABAL.
No. 00-1406.
Supreme Court of the United States.
Argued February 27, 2002.
Decided June 10, 2002.

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Respondent Echazabal worked for independent contractors at one of petitioner Chevron U. S. A. Inc.'s oil refineries until Chevron refused to hire him because of a liver condition — which its doctors said would be exacerbated by continued exposure to toxins at the refinery — and the contractor employing him laid him off in response to Chevron`s request that it reassign him to a job without exposure to toxins or remove him from the refinery. Echazabal filed suit, claiming, among other things, that Chevron`s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). Chevron defended under an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulation permitting the defense that a worker's disability on the job would pose a direct threat to his health. The District Court granted Chevron summary judgment, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, finding that the regulation exceeded the scope of permissible rulemaking under the ADA.

Held: The ADA permits the EEOC`s regulation. Pp. 78-87.

(a) The ADA`s discrimination definition covers a number of things an employer might do to block a disabled person from advancing in the workplace, such as "using qualification standards ... that screen out or tend to screen out [such] an individual," 42 U. S. C. § 12112(b)(6). And along with § 12113(a), the definition creates an affirmative defense for action under a qualification standard "shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity," which "may include a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals in the workplace," § 12113(b). The EEOC`s regulation carries the defense one step further, allowing an employer to screen out a potential worker with a disability for risks on the job to his own health or safety. Pp. 78-79.

(b) Echazabal relies on the canon expressio unius exclusio alterius — expressing one item of an associated group excludes another left unmentioned — for his argument that the ADA, by recognizing only threats to others, precludes the regulation as a matter of law. The first strike against the expression-exclusion rule here is in the statute, which includes the threat-to-others provision as an example of legitimate qualifications that are "job-related and consistent with business necessity." These spacious defensive categories seem to give an agency a good deal

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of discretion in setting the limits of permissible qualification standards. And the expansive "may include" phrase points directly away from the sort of exclusive specifications that Echazabal claims. Strike two is the failure to identify any series of terms or things that should be understood to go hand in hand, which are abridged in circumstances supporting a sensible inference that the term left out must have been meant to be excluded. Echazabal claims that Congress`s adoption only of the threat-to-others exception in the ADA was a deliberate omission of the threat-to-self exception included in the EEOC`s regulation implementing the precursor Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which has language identical to that in the ADA. But this is not an unequivocal implication of congressional intent. Because the EEOC was not the only agency interpreting the Rehabilitation Act, its regulation did not establish a clear, standard pairing of threats to self and others. And, it is likely that Congress used such language in the ADA knowing what the EEOC had made of that language under the earlier statute. The third strike is simply that there is no apparent stopping point to the argument that, by specifying a threat-to-others defense, Congress intended a negative implication about those whose safety could be considered. For example, Congress could not have meant that an employer could not defend a refusal to hire when a worker`s disability would threaten others outside the workplace. Pp. 79-84.

(c) Since Congress has not spoken exhaustively on threats to a worker`s own health, the regulation can claim adherence under the rule in Chevron U. S. A. Inc. v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., 467 U. S. 837, 843, so long as it makes sense of the statutory defense for qualification standards that are "job-related and consistent with business necessity." Chevron`s reasons for claiming that the regulation is reasonable include, inter alia, that it allows Chevron to avoid the risk of violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA). Whether an employer would be liable under OSHA for hiring an individual who consents to a job`s particular dangers is an open question, but the employer would be courting trouble under OSHA. The EEOC`s resolution exemplifies the substantive choices that agencies are expected to make when Congress leaves the intersection of competing objectives both imprecisely marked and subject to administrative leeway. Nor can the EEOC`s resolution be called unreasonable as allowing the kind of workplace paternalism the ADA was meant to outlaw. The ADA was trying to get at refusals to give an even break to classes of disabled people, while claiming to act for their own good in reliance on untested and pretextual stereotypes. This sort of sham protection is just what the regulation disallows, by demanding a particularized enquiry into the harms an employee would probably face. Finally, that

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the threat-to-self defense reasonably falls within the general "job related" and "business necessity" standard does not reduce the "direct threat" language to surplusage. The provision made a conclusion clear that might otherwise have been fought over in litigation or administrative rulemaking. Pp. 84-87.

226 F. 3d 1063, reversed and remanded.

SOUTER, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Stephen M. Shapiro argued the cause for petitioner. With him on the briefs were James D. Holzhauer, Robert P. Davis, and Evan M. Tager.

Lisa Schiavo Blatt argued the cause for the United States et al. as amici curiae urging reversal. With her on the brief were Solicitor General Olson, Deputy Solicitor General Clement, Assistant Attorney General McCallum, Marleigh D. Dover, Matthew Collette, Phillip B. Sklover, Carolyn L. Wheeler, and Robert J. Gregory.

Samuel R. Bagenstos argued the cause for respondent. With him on the brief were Larry Minsky and Chai R. Feldblum.*

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JUSTICE SOUTER delivered the opinion of the Court.


A regulation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission authorizes refusal to hire an individual because his performance on the job would endanger his own health, owing to a disability. The question in this case is whether the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 104 Stat. 328, 42 U. S. C. § 12101 et seq. (1994 ed. and Supp. V), permits the regulation.1 We hold that it does.

I

Beginning in 1972, respondent Mario Echazabal worked for independent contractors at an oil refinery owned by petitioner Chevron U. S. A. Inc. Twice he applied for a job directly with Chevron, which offered to hire him if he could pass the company`s physical examination. See 42 U. S. C. § 12112(d)(3) (1994 ed.). Each time, the exam showed liver abnormality or damage, the cause eventually being identified as Hepatitis C, which Chevron`s doctors said would be aggravated by continued exposure to toxins at Chevron`s refinery. In each instance, the company withdrew the offer, and the second time it asked the contractor employing Echazabal either to reassign him to a job without exposure to harmful chemicals or to remove him from the refinery altogether. The contractor laid him off in early 1996.

Echazabal filed suit, ultimately removed to federal court, claiming, among other things, that Chevron violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA or Act) in refusing to

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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 Echazabal

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was not "`otherwise qualified'" to perform the job, holding that the ability to perform a job without risk to...

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260 practice notes
  • Knutson v. Ag Processing, Inc., No. C01-3015-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • July 28, 2003
    ...(quoting 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(l)). Further, contrary to AGP's assertion, this is not a case like Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73, 122 S.Ct. 2045, 153 L.Ed.2d 82 (2002), where the Supreme Court held that the EEOC regulation authorizing an employer's refusal to hire an individual ......
  • Travers v. FedEx Corp., CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-6106
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • July 20, 2020
    ...General Revenue Corp. , 568 U.S. 371, 133 S.Ct. 1166, 1175, 185 L.Ed.2d 242 (2013) ).109 Id. (quoting Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal , 536 U.S. 73, 80, 122 S.Ct. 2045, 153 L.Ed.2d 82 (2002) ).110 38 U.S.C. § 4303(2).111 ECF Doc. No. 36 at 14-15.112 Id. at 15; Black's Law Dictionary 23 (9t......
  • PAYNE v. GOODMAN Mfg. Co., No. 4:08-cv-92.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Eastern District of Tennessee
    • July 6, 2010
    ...in circumstances supporting a sensible inference that the term left out must have been meant to be excluded. Chevron U.S.A. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73, 81, 122 S.Ct. 2045, 153 L.Ed.2d 82 (2002). If the Tennessee legislature intended to include FMLA protections within the ambit of the THRA, i......
  • Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. SW Gen., Inc., No. 15–1251.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • March 21, 2017
    ...alterius, ‘expressing one item of [an] associated group or series excludes another left unmentioned.’ " Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73, 80, 122 S.Ct. 2045, 153 L.Ed.2d 82 (2002) (quoting United States v. Vonn, 535 U.S. 55, 65, 122 S.Ct. 1043, 152 L.Ed.2d 90 (2002) ). If a sig......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
259 cases
  • Knutson v. Ag Processing, Inc., No. C01-3015-MWB.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Northern District of Iowa
    • July 28, 2003
    ...(quoting 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(l)). Further, contrary to AGP's assertion, this is not a case like Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73, 122 S.Ct. 2045, 153 L.Ed.2d 82 (2002), where the Supreme Court held that the EEOC regulation authorizing an employer's refusal to hire an individual ......
  • Travers v. FedEx Corp., CIVIL ACTION NO. 19-6106
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • July 20, 2020
    ...General Revenue Corp. , 568 U.S. 371, 133 S.Ct. 1166, 1175, 185 L.Ed.2d 242 (2013) ).109 Id. (quoting Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal , 536 U.S. 73, 80, 122 S.Ct. 2045, 153 L.Ed.2d 82 (2002) ).110 38 U.S.C. § 4303(2).111 ECF Doc. No. 36 at 14-15.112 Id. at 15; Black's Law Dictionary 23 (9t......
  • PAYNE v. GOODMAN Mfg. Co., No. 4:08-cv-92.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. Eastern District of Tennessee
    • July 6, 2010
    ...in circumstances supporting a sensible inference that the term left out must have been meant to be excluded. Chevron U.S.A. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73, 81, 122 S.Ct. 2045, 153 L.Ed.2d 82 (2002). If the Tennessee legislature intended to include FMLA protections within the ambit of the THRA, i......
  • Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. SW Gen., Inc., No. 15–1251.
    • United States
    • U.S. Supreme Court
    • March 21, 2017
    ...alterius, ‘expressing one item of [an] associated group or series excludes another left unmentioned.’ " Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73, 80, 122 S.Ct. 2045, 153 L.Ed.2d 82 (2002) (quoting United States v. Vonn, 535 U.S. 55, 65, 122 S.Ct. 1043, 152 L.Ed.2d 90 (2002) ). If a sig......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • A TRIP THROUGH EMPLOYMENT LAW: PROTECTING THERAPEUTIC PSILOCYBIN USERS IN THE WORKPLACE.
    • United States
    • Journal of Law and Health Vol. 35 Nbr. 1, September 2021
    • September 22, 2021
    ...on how to best interpret Nevada's statute."). (203) 29 C.F.R. [section] 1630.2(r) (2021). (204) Chevron U.S.A. Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73, 86 (2002) (quoting 29 C.F.R. [section] 1630.2(r) (205) See Bragdon v. Abbott, 524 U.S. 624, 649 (1998;; Haynes v. City of Montgomery, No. 2:06-......

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