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Re: Supreme Court case on shift work sleep disorder

Posted by David on May 17, 2001 at 13:57:15:

In Reply to: shift work related sleep disorder posted by saku on May 01, 2001 at 17:00:58:

Here's a news article from 1999 about a reporter who lost his appeal based on a shiftwork sleep disorder claim.

Associated Press, November 8, 1999

"Court rejects appeal from newscaster over work shifts"

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear an appeal by a radio newscaster who was fired and denied long-term disability payments when he claimed varied shifts caused a serious sleep problem.

The court, without comment, rejected William Scheffler's argument that he should be protected by a federal law banning discrimination against the disabled.

"This is extremely bad news," said Scheffler, of Hillsborough in Somerset County, who said he has been jobless for 3 1/2 years and owes thousands in legal bills.

"I still have ongoing medical problems ... but hope to return to work soon," he said.

After working in Princeton since 1985 with a Dow Jones radio service, Scheffler said he hired as a newscaster and writer in 1991 by another Dow Jones entity, the Wall Street Journal Radio Report in New York City.

He was told he would be required to fill in for other newscasters when they were on vacation or otherwise unavailable.

At the time the radio report was not broadcasting 24 hours a day, but in 1992 it added overnight hours. Scheffler frequently was required to work overnight shifts, and his schedule changed as often as three or four times a week.

"Those kind of hours were not in my job description," Scheffler said, asserting he had 60 shift changes in 1994. "I just wanted a stable schedule like anyone else."

In 1994, he began complaining of medical problems he said were caused by frequent schedule changes. His problems, diagnosed as "shiftwork sleep disorder," included high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and migraine headaches.

"I fell asleep at the wheel, I had a car accident," said Scheffler, 51. "It screwed up my body."

Scheffler went on short-term disability leave in 1995. Although Dow Jones offered a revised work schedule, he said he could not work those hours. Scheffler sought and was denied long-term disability benefits. After he failed to return to work, he was fired in late 1995.

He sued in federal court in Newark, saying Dow Jones violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against disabled people who are qualified to perform a job with reasonable accommodation.

A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, agreeing with Dow Jones that Scheffler's inability to work varying shifts meant he could no longer perform an essential aspect of his job. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that ruling.

In the appeal acted on Monday, Scheffler's lawyer said his employer should have offered him a fixed, daytime schedule as a reasonable accommodation.

The case is Scheffler vs. Dow Jones & Co., 99-460.

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