Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Sleep Apnea Case


Obstructive sleep apnea disrupts sleep and can leave truck drivers suffering from daytime sleepiness.
Obstructive sleep apnea disrupts sleep and can leave truck drivers suffering from daytime sleepiness.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear a case in which a truck driver claimed the company for which he worked violated the Americans With Disabilities Act and discriminated against him by saying he must undergo sleep apnea testing because of his weight.

Robert J. Parker sued Crete Carrier Corp., a nationwide trucking company specializing in dry van trucking jobs, saying by requiring Parker to undergo testing for sleep apnea because of his weight, the company assumed Parker suffered from the condition. He claimed the requirement was an act of discrimination and violated the ADA.

By declining to hear the case, the Supreme Court defers to the decision handed down by the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, on an appeal from the decision of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska-Lincoln. In their decision, Circuit Court Judges James B. Loken, Raymond W. Gruender, and Duane Benton ruled that Parker was wrong in saying the sleep study requirement was unlawful.

“The undisputed evidence shows that Crete suspended Parker for refusing to submit to a lawful medical examination,” the judgement said.

Crete said obesity is the primary anatomic risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea and a BMI of approximately 33 is the optimal cut-off to identify subjects likely to have obstructive sleep apnea. Crete requires truck drivers with a body mass index of 35 or greater to submit to an in-lab sleep study.

The Medical Review Board found, in 2008, that obstructive sleep apnea causes daytime sleepiness, making drivers more likely to be involved in accidents. In 2016, the MRB recommended sleep studies for drivers who either have a BMI of 40 or above or have BMIs of 33 or above plus additional risk factors.

Parker was told in 2013 that he would have to undergo the in-lab sleep study. After refusing to submit to the test, Parker was taken out of service by Crete and later released from employment with the company.