Murphy v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

RESPONDENT:United Parcel Service, Inc.
LOCATION:Knowles’ Car

DOCKET NO.: 97-1992
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

CITATION: 527 US 516 (1999)
ARGUED: Apr 27, 1999
DECIDED: Jun 22, 1999

James A. Feldman – Department of Justice, on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner
Stephen R. McAllister – Argued the cause for the petitioner
William J. Kilberg – Argued the cause for the respondent

Facts of the case

At the time of his hiring by United Parcel Service (UPS) to a mechanics position that required him to drive commercial trucks, Vaughn Murphy was misdiagnosed as meeting Department of Transportation (DOT) health guidelines. When UPS discovered that Murphy’s blood pressure exceeded DOT requirements, they fired him. Murphy challenged his dismissal as a form of discrimination prohibited under Title I of the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Following defeat in trial and appellate courts, Murphy appealed and the Supreme Court granted him certiorari.


Is high blood pressure a “substantial impairment” that might limit one’s life activities to such an extent as to justify their being called “disabled” and, therefore, entitled to protection under the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act?

Media for Murphy v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – April 27, 1999 in Murphy v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 22, 1999 in Murphy v. United Parcel Service, Inc.

Sandra Day O’Connor:

The second case, another ADA case, is Murphy versus United Parcel Service, No. 97-1992.

This case comes here on writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

The respondent, United Parcel Service, dismissed the petitioner Vaughn Murphy from his job as a mechanic because of his hypertension.

The petitioner filed suit under Title I of the ADA in Federal District Court.

The District Court granted summary judgment to the respondent and the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirmed.

It held that the petitioner’s hypertension is not a disability, because he functions normally when he is medicated.

The Court also held the petitioner is not regarded as disabled under the ADA.

In an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we affirm.

The first question is whether the determination of petitioner’s disability is made with reference to the mitigating measures he employs.

We have answered that question in the Sutton case just announced in the affirmative.

Given that holding the result in this case is clear.

The Court of Appeals concluded that when medicated petitioner’s hypertension does not substantially limit him in any major life activity.

Petitioner did not seek certiorari on whether that conclusion was correct.

So, we conclude the Court of Appeals correctly affirmed the grant of summary judgment in respondent’s favor.

Petitioner also argues that he was regarded as disabled by respondent because of his hypertension.

To support that claim he points to testimony from respondent’s Resource Manager that respondent fired petitioner due to his hypertension, which he claims evidences respondent’s belief that the hypertension and consequent inability to obtain certification from the Department of Transportation to drive commercial motor vehicles substantially limits his ability to work.

As we held in Sutton a person is regarded as disabled within the meaning of the ADA, if a covered entity mistakenly believes that person’s actual, nonlimiting impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Assuming arguendo, that unchallenged regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are correct, to be regarded as substantially limited in the major life activity of working, one must be regarded as precluded from a class of jobs.

Here the evidence that petitioner is regarded as unable to meet the Department of Transportation regulations is not sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether he is regarded as unable to perform a class of jobs utilizing his skills.

There is no evidence that petitioner is unable to perform mechanics jobs that do not call for driving a commercial vehicle.

We conclude that petitioner has failed to show he is regarded as disabled.

Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion which Justice Breyer has joined.