1. Look again at the facts offered by both the majority and the dissent. Why do you think Echazabal was willing to risk his health by working in the coker unit? Assuming he had a complete grasp of the risks involved, is it ethical to allow him to work there? For this, re examine the frameworks for ethical decision making in Chapter 1.
2. Chevron gave certain reasons for refusing to allow Echazabal to work in the coker unit. Name them. Can you think of any other reasons the company may have had for that decision?
3. On appeal, the Supreme Court reversed. Justice Souter explained why:
“The EEOC was certainly acting within the reasonable zone when it saw a difference between rejecting workplace paternalism and ignoring specific and documented risks to the employee himself, even if the employee would take his chances for the sake of getting a job.” Chevron USA Inc. v. Echazabal, 536 U.S. 73, 122 S.Ct. 2045 (2002). The “direct threat defense” is allowable, according to the Court, when it is based on a “‘reasonable medical judgment that relies on the most current medical knowledge and/or the best available objective evidence,’ and upon an expressly ‘individualized assessment of the individual’s present ability to safely perform the essential functions of the job..’” Find out how the lower courts applied the test when they revisited Echazabal on remand from the Supreme Court. Are you satisfied that Chevron’s decisions were not based on the kind of pre-textual stereotypes at which the ADA is aimed?
4. In this case, we see both the company and the employee between a rock and a hard place. Echazabal must choose to either further endanger his health or lose a coveted opportunity, while Chevron is caught between liability under the ADA and liability for unsafe work conditions. Suppose you were a top manager inside Chevron, responsible for strategic planning on workplace safety. Is there anything you and your firm could do to prevent or minimize the risk of this type of scenario from developing in the future?
5. Mentioned in the Echazabal case is International Union v. Johnson Controls, 111 S.Ct. 1196, a 1991 Supreme Court decision in which, again, a company was accused of paternalism for restricting access to hazardous jobs. In Johnson Controls, fertile women were not permitted to work on a battery-making production line where exposure to lead could cause harm to their offspring. The Supreme Court held that this restriction amounted to illegal sex discrimination under Title VII, stating that the female workers should “not be forced to choose between having a child and having a job.” The company had argued it was concerned about harm to future generations, but the Court wrote: “Decisions about the welfare of future children must be left to the parents who conceive, bear, support and raise them rather than to the employers who hire those parents.” Is there a group of stakeholders (affected individuals) whose preferences have not been considered in the Johnson Controls case? How might the absence of such voices alter an ethical analysis of this situation?