Samson v. Fed. Express Corp.

Decision Date29 June 2012
Docket NumberCase No. 2:11-cv-6-UA-DNF
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida

Plaintiff Richard Samson has filed claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. ("ADA") and the Florida Civil Rights Act, Fla. Stat. § 760.01, et seq. ("FCRA") against Defendant Federal Express Corporation ("FedEx"), alleging that FedEx revoked an offer of employment upon discovery that Mr. Samson has Type-I, insulin-dependent diabetes. FedEx has filed a motion for summary judgment on all claims (Doc. 55), and Mr. Samson has filed a response in opposition (Doc. 61).

Upon due consideration, and for the reasons that follow, the Court finds that the motion for summary judgment is due to be Granted.

Undisputed Material Facts
A. The Parties

FedEx is a certified air carrier providing package delivery service through its movement of aircraft and commercial motor vehicles on public roadways. FedEx's Air Operation Division operates aircraft carrying packages from locations throughout theUnited States into and out of several Florida airport locations. FedEx has its own designated facilities, called "Ramps" located at the Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Myers, Ft. Lauderdale, and Miami airports. When the aircraft arrive at the Ramps, the packages are unloaded off the aircraft, sorted for destination to various locations, and moved onto both tractor-trailers and straight trucks. These vehicles utilize public roadways to transport the packages to various other FedEx stations within Florida, and eventually to customers. There is no dispute that FedEx engages in interstate commerce, that FedEx is registered with the Department of Transportation ("DOT") as an interstate carrier, and that the tractor-trailers and straight trucks constitute "commercial motor vehicles" regulated by the DOT.1

Richard Samson has spent his entire adult life working as a vehicle mechanic. In 1995, Mr. Samson was diagnosed with Type-I diabetes which he treats with insulin. There is no evidence that any physician has ever placed any limitations or restrictions on Mr. Samson related to his diabetes, if he takes his insulin as directed. Mr. Samson contends that he is substantially limited in the major life activities of eating and caring for himself, as well as in the operation of his endocrine system.

B. The Senior Global Vehicle Technicians/DOT/CDL Position

FedEx employs Senior Global Vehicle Technicians/DOT/CDL ("Technicians") at their designated Ramps in Florida and nationwide. FedEx's job description for these positions lists the Technician's essential job duties/responsibilities to include: (1) repairing, modifying, and performing preventative maintenance inspections, and troubleshooting field vehicle fleet and ground support equipment; (2) diagnosing sources of trouble, disassembling equipment and performing repairs; (3) making necessary adjustments in machinery for safe and efficient operations; (4) completing required paperwork; (5) maintaining a clean and safe work area; (6) providing assistance, guidance, and direction to other Technicians and Technician trainees; (7) completing project work; (8) ensuring maintenance related materials are maintained at approved inventory levels; and (9) interfacing with customers, FedEx employees, and vendors regarding vehicle repairs. See Deposition of Mahase Madoo, Plaintiff's Ex. 13 (Doc. 56-7).

The job description also states that a Technician "must possess all certifications/licenses as required according to federal, state, and local law," and requires the employee to complete a "medical exam in accordance with FHWA or FAA regulations." Id.2

In order to troubleshoot or diagnose the cause of a reported mechanical problem, and to verify afterward that repairs are complete, Technicians operate both tractor-trailersand straight trucks on public roadways. See Declaration of Theodore Steckel, ¶¶ 6-11 (Doc. 56-10); Declaration of John Takacs, ¶¶ 4-6 (Doc. 56-11); Declaration of Delroy Howell, ¶¶ 6-8 (Doc. 56-12). Technicians receive extensive training on tractor, trailer and straight truck operations, and defensive driving techniques. See Declaration of Joseph S. Andrews, ¶¶ 4-8 (Doc. 56-13). Technicians are also given check-rides annually, whereby a Technician is evaluated on his or her ability to operate vehicles on public roadways. See Deposition of John Rotundo, pp. 92-95 and Ex. 1 (Doc. 64).

From January 1, 2007 through November 16, 2011, Technicians located at various facilities in Florida operated commercial motor vehicles on Florida's public roadways for a sum total of 766 hours and 6 minutes. See Declaration of Scott E. Payne, ¶ 8 (Doc. 56-14). The commercial motor vehicles the Technicians repair and maintain frequently travel back and forth between multiple locations in Florida and Georgia. See Declaration of Donald Miller, ¶¶ 9-10, 12-13 (Doc. 56-1).

C. Applicable DOT Regulations

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. § 31301, et seq., authorizes the Department of Transportation to promulgate "minimum safety standards" to ensure "the physical condition of operators of commercial motor vehicles is adequate to enable them to operate the vehicles safely. . . ." 49 U.S.C. § 31136(a)(3). The Act further authorizes the DOT to "prescribe regulations on minimum uniform standards for the issuance of commercial drivers' licenses and learner's permits . . . " 49 U.S.C. § 31308.

The DOT, through its Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, has promulgated regulations covering operators of commercial motor vehicles. Operators of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of 10,001 pounds or higher, which are "used on a highway in interstate commerce to transport persons or property," must be "DOT qualified." This means that the operator must pass a DOT medical exam (among other things), and is then issued a DOT Medical Certification allowing the operator to drive the vehicle. See 49 C.F.R. § 390.5.3 See also 49 C.F.R. § 390.3(a) (the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations "are applicable to all employers, employees, and commercial motor vehicles, which transport property or passengers in interstate commerce.").

For operators of commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating or gross vehicle weight of 26,001 pounds or greater, which are used in commerce to transport passengers or property, the DOT has imposed the additional requirement of obtaining a commercial driver's license. 49 C.F.R. §§ 383.5, 390.3(b). The regulations broadly define"commerce" as "(a) any trade, traffic or transportation within the jurisdiction of the United States between a place in a State and a place outside of such State, including a place outside of the United States and (b) trade, traffic, and transportation in the United States which affects any trade, traffic, and transportation described in paragraph (a) of this definition." 49 C.F.R. § 383.5.

It is undisputed that FedEx's tractors average 32,000 pounds, its trailers add an additional 19,000 pounds (unloaded), and straight trucks average 33,000 pounds. Declaration of Mahase G. Madoo, ¶ 7 (Doc. 56-8). Therefore, the requirement that all operators possess a commercial driver's license applies to FedEx's vehicles and its employees who operate such vehicles.4

In order to obtain a commercial driver's license, an operator must obtain a DOT Medical Certification, and must carry a current medical examiner's certificate that he or she is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle. 49 C.F.R. §§ 391.41(a)(1)(I), 391.43, 391.45. See also Allen v. Republic Silver State Disposal, Inc., No. 2:10-cv-827 JCM (VCF), 2012 WL 458429 at * 1 (D. Nev. Feb. 10, 2012). No employer "may knowingly allow, require, permit, or authorize a driver to operate a [commercial motor vehicle] in the United States" who does not have a current commercial driver's license. 49 C.F.R.§383.37. The regulations make clear that all requirements and standards for obtaining a commercial driver's license, including the successful completion of a DOT medical examination, apply "to every person who operates a commercial motor vehicle, . . . in interstate or intrastate commerce and to all employers of such persons." 49 C.F.R. §§383.3(a); 390.3(b) (emphasis added).

The DOT has further mandated that a person "must not operate a commercial motor vehicle unless he or she is medically certified as physically qualified to do so. . . ." 49 C.F.R. §391.41(a)(1)(i). A medical examiner listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners must conduct the examination, and "certify that the driver does not have any physical, mental, or organic condition that might affect the driver's ability to operate a commercial motor vehicle safely." 49 C.F.R. § 391.43(f). With respect to diabetes, the regulations are clear: "[i]f insulin is necessary to control a diabetic driver's condition, the driver is not qualified to operate a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce." Id. See also 49 C.F.R. § 391.41(b)(3) ("A person is physically qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle if that person - (3) Has no established medical history or clinical diagnosis of diabetes mellitus currently requiring insulin for control.").

In compliance with these regulations, FedEx has continuously required all persons who operate commercial motor vehicles, including Technicians, to successful complete a medical examination and obtain a commercial driver's license. See Declaration of Larry W. Bizzell, Jr., Ex. 1 ("FedEx People Manual," Policy 4-48 Driving Qualifications) (Doc. 56-4); Declaration of Mahase Madoo (Doc. 56-8); Declaration of Theodore A. Steckel, ¶ 5(Doc. 56-10); Declaration of John R. Takacs, ¶ 3 (Doc. 56-11); Declaration of Delroy Howell, ¶ 4 (Doc. 56-12).

D. Samson's Offer of Employment

On February 11, 2009, Mr. Samson applied for a...

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