Chevron v. Echazabal 536 U.S. 73, 122 S. Ct. 2045, 153 L. Ed. 2d 82 (2002)
Echazabal worked for a
contractor at an oil refinery owned by Chevron. He applied to work
directly at Chevron, but was unable to pass a physical examination.
Echazabal had Hepatitis,
which the doctors thought would be aggravated by exposure to toxic
chemicals at the workplace.
After the physical, Chevron
told Echazabal's employer to reassign him away from the chemicals. The
fired him instead.
He'd been doing the job
safely for almost 20 years, just for a subcontractor, not for Chevron
Echazabal sued under the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA) (42 U.S.C. §12101), saying that it was illegal for Chevron to
penalize him because of his illness.
Chevron responded by quoting
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.
The Trial Court found for
Chevron in summary judgment. Echazabal appealed.
The Trial Court found that
Chevron acted reasonably in relying on their doctor's medical opinion.
The Appellate Court reversed.
The Appellate Court found
that the EEOC's regulation recognizing a threat-to-self defense exceeded
the scope of permissible rulemaking (aka acting ultra vires) under the ADA.
The Appellate Court found
that the Statute was very clear, it says "threat to others."
Since the intent is clear, the EEOC is not allowed to make an
The US Supreme Court reversed
the Appellate Court and found for Chevron.
The US Supreme Court found
that the ADA permitted EEOC to
issue the regulation recognizing a threat-to-self defense.
The US Supreme Court looked
to the plain language of the ADA
and found that it prohibits 'discrimination'. The Court found that the
definition of 'discrimination' created a defense for action related to
job performance standards.
Basically, if there is a good
reason the guy can't perform the job, then there is no discrimination.
"A requirement that
an individual shall not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of
other individuals in the
workplace," is a good reason.
The Court found that the
Congressional intent of the
Statute was ambiguous.
Echazabal looked to the
specific wording of the ADA and
found that it said "'qualification standards' may
include a requirement that an individual shall not pose a direct threat
to the health or safety of other
individuals in the workplace." He unsuccessfully argued that since
the Statute specifically said 'other individuals' it should not apply to possible harm to
That's the interpretive
cannon of expressio unius, exclusio alterius (expressing one item of an associated group
or series excludes another left unmentioned). Also known as the Expression-Exclusion
However, the Court looked
to the words 'may include' in the language of the provision and found
that it was not exclusive.
argued that since the ADA was
silent about threats to self, Congress must have been a deliberate
omission with the intent to exclude it.
However, the Court noted
that Congress had used the same language in another Statute that had
previously been interpreted the same way by the EEOC. That implied
that Congress left the interpretation up to the EEOC because if they
didn't like EEOC's interpretation they would have been more specific in
Since the Statute was
ambiguous, the Court found that the EEOC's interpretation of the
ambiguous Statute was reasonable. Therefore they should defer to the
argued that, as a matter of law,
the ADA precludes the EEOC's regulation because it would
be an unreasonable interpretation. However, the Court found that the
interpretation was reasonable.
The courts traditionally
defer to the interpretation of Administrative Agencies if the Statute
is ambiguous, unless it can be shown that the Agency's actions are
arbitrary and capricious.
See Chevron U.S.A. Inc.
v. Natural Resources Defense Council
(467 U.S. 837 (1984)).