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Supreme Court hears worker safety ADA case
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Feb. 26, 2002 -- On Wednesday the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the ADA employment case Chevron v. Echazabal. The case concerns whether the Americans with Disabilities Act permits an employer to refuse to hire an individual because the job may pose a direct threat to his own health or safety.

Mario Echazabal worked at Chevron's El Segundo, California oil refinery for some 20 years as a contractor, but when he applied to work for Chevron as an employee, and a pre-employment physical revealed hepatitis C, Chevron withdrew its job offer.

Paternalistic rules have often excluded disabled individuals from the workplace, said the Ninth Circuit in ruling for Echazabal -- and disability rights legal experts say the law's plain meaning was to protect against paternalistic attitudes of employers that would keep people with disabilities out of the workforce. The 9th Circuit Court decision is online at

"The ADA says clearly that with an employee, an employer can take into account whether that person will pose a safety threat to others; it does not say they can take into account whether the person's condition poses a threat to the person themselves," says Georgetown University Law Center's Chai Feldblum, who says this was "an intentional, anti paternalistic stance taken by members of Congress." Read more about the case at

In his story today, Los Angeles Times Supreme Court reporter David Savage says the case concerns women's and gay rights groups as well. Read Savage's story at

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