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Chapter IV: Establishing Nondisciminatory Qualification Standards And Selection Criteria

4.6 Health and Safety Requirements of Other Federal or State Laws

The ADA recognizes employers' obligations to comply with requirements of other laws that establish health and safety standards. However, the Act gives greater weight to Federal than to state or local law.

1. Federal Laws and Regulations

The ADA does not override health and safety requirements established under other Federal laws. If a standard is required by another Federal law, an employer must comply with it and does not have to show that the standard is job related and consistent with business necessity.

For example: An employee who is being hired to drive a vehicle in interstate commerce must meet safety requirements established by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Employers also must conform to health and safety requirements of the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

However, an employer still has the obligation under the ADA to consider whether there is a reasonable accommodation, consistent with the standards of other Federal laws, that will prevent exclusion of qualified individuals with disabilities who can perform jobs without violating the standards of those laws.

For example: In hiring a person to drive a vehicle in interstate commerce, an employer must conform to existing Department of Transportation regulations that exclude any person with epilepsy, diabetes, and certain other conditions from such a job.

But, for example, if DOT regulations require that a truck have 3 grab bars in specified places, and an otherwise qualified individual with a disability could perform essential job functions with the assistance of 2 additional grab bars, it would be a reasonable accommodation to add these bars, unless this would be an undue hardship.

The Department of Transportation, as directed by Congress, currently is reviewing several motor vehicle standards that require "blanket" exclusions of individuals with diabetes, epilepsy and certain other disabilities.

2. State and Local Laws

The ADA does not override state or local laws designed to protect public health and safety, except where such laws conflict with ADA requirements. This means that if there is a state or local law that would exclude an individual with a disability for a particular job or profession because of a health or safety risk, the employer still must assess whether a particular individual would pose a "direct threat" to health or safety under the ADA standard. If there is such a "direct threat," the employer also must consider whether it could be eliminated or reduced below the level of a "direct threat" by reasonable accommodation. An employer may not rely on the existence of a state or local law that conflicts with ADA requirements as a defense to a charge of discrimination.

For example: A state law that required a schoolbus driver to have a high level of hearing in both ears without use of a hearing aid was found by a court to violate Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and would violate the ADA. The court found that the driver could perform his job with a hearing aid without a risk to safety.