Thank God for some occasional common sense. We don't see it often anymore, but when it does come through, we should take a moment to appreciate it. That is certainly the case with a Texas appeals court, which last week rejected a man's claim that alcohol blood level limits for drivers discriminate against alcoholics and are thereby a violation of his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The guy has had 4 DWI convictions, so it would appear his rights had been getting violated a lot. His last arrest came after he was involved in a collision, and blew a .29 at the scene. Most of you will recognize that is a tad high – or a whale of a disability, depending on your view.
He made the argument that his four-year prison sentence for that fourth DWI conviction “should be overturned because the legal driving limit discriminates against people with a higher alcohol tolerance.” He said his conviction violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. If that were found to be the case, it would of course mean that it would be unconstitutional.
And drunks would be allowed to endanger all of us as a reasonable accommodation.
Instead, the court rejected his arguments, pointing out that his case was not claiming alcoholics were being treated differently than non-alcoholics, but rather that he was asking that they should be treated differently. A spokesman for the DA's office involved also pointed out that he was not “being punished for being an alcoholic. It's the driving that's the problem. It's making the decision to get into a 3,000-pound vehicle ... after drinking."
You have to hate pesky little details that have a tendency to derail your stupid argument.
Can you imagine if the court had supported this claim? Alcoholism is already protected to a degree by the ADA, but to make accommodations that would overlook drunk driving would represent huge ramifications for all of us. Those protections could extend beyond the impaired driver. Never mind that little Johnny's bus ride to school could be a whole new adventure; what about the heavy equipment operator, or a metal press operator? Who wants to navigate that employment minefield?
It is one thing to have reasonable accommodations. It is quite another when reasonable has lost all reasonability. Even if you have a disability, it should not exempt you from the obligation to make responsible decisions.
Thankfully, the Austin area appeals court justices appear to have been stone cold sober when they rendered their opinion. We should all have a drink to celebrate their wise decision.
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Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
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