Appeals court revives disability bias claims of one-handed bus driver

Weird School BusTammy Rosebrough was born without a left hand. In September 2007, she applied for a cook position at Buckeye Valley North High School. However, due to a shortage of bus drivers, the school encouraged Rosebrough to become a bus driver. Rosebrough accepted.

Rosebrough claimed that, during her training, her trainer made discriminatory comments to her about her disability on two separate occasions. Rosebrough reported the comments and was informed that her concerns would be addressed.

Later, during her training, Rosebrough was informed that she would need a commerical driver’s license (CDL). She scheduled a CDL test with the State, but later cancelled when her trainer was unavailable to take her to the test. Over the next several months, Rosebrough contacted several other testing centers and school districts but learned she could only be trained by the school district that ultimately hired her. Rosebrough never contacted Buckeye Valley again to return and finish her training.

On March 11, 2009, Rosebrough filed suit against Buckeye Valley asserting violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lower court granted summary judgment to Buckeye Valley when it concluded that Rosebrough was not qualified to perform her job. Specifically, the court opined that Rosebrough was not qualified because she failed to obtain her CDL.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in this decision, reversed. It reasoned that Rosebrough was not hired as a bus driver, but rather as a “bus driver trainee.” And, the ADA covers discrimination in job training. Further, as Buckeye Valley conceded that Rosebrough “was qualified to be a ‘trainee,’ was in fact a ‘trainee,’ and was given the training,” having a CDL was not necessary for Rosebrough to perform the essential functions of her training position. Therefore, Rosebrough was qualified to perform the essential functions of her job. 

The Sixth Circuit remanded the case to the lower court to consider the other elements of Rosebrough’s ADA claim.