Last year in Kellogg v. Energy Safety Servs., Inc., the Tenth Circuit court of Appeals concluded that driving is not a major life activity as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In order for a person to claim protected disabled status under the ADA, he or she must suffer from a significant impairment of a major life activity. The Tenth Circuit concluded that driving was a means to an end, and not an actual life activity.
Despite significant criticism of this decision, last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the Kellogg case. A number of commentators noted that in rural and suburban settings, driving is essential to modern life. The new ADA Amendments Act, however, did not include driving in its expanded list of enumerated major life activities.
The Supreme Court’s declination of review leaves a split among federal courts that have considered this question. Courts that refuse to distinguish between urban and rural life have generally found driving not to be a major life activity in and of itself. Employers presented with claims from employees of mental or physical restrictions on driving should exercise caution before concluding that the impairment is or is not an ADA disability.