Defendant Continental Air Transport Co., Inc. ("Continental") transports passengers in and around the Chicago metropolitan area. On January 21, 1993, Prado applied for a driver position with Continental. Continental interviewed and tested Prado on his general driving knowledge and familiarity with the Chicago land area. Prado passed these tests and was told to report for a physical examination the following day. Continental did not make a conditional offer of employment prior to Prado's physical examination. (Prado Aff. § 4.)
Continental requires that all driver applicants meet the minimum standards of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations established by the United States Department of Transportation ("DOT"). Part of the DOT certification process requires a physical examination. Dr. Cecilie Radulovic ("Dr. Radulovic") performed the requisite exam on Prado. Because Dr. Radulovic discovered that Prado's "right leg is atrophied with very limited function," she determined that it was "not advisable for [Prado] to drive a commercial vehicle where there are passengers at risk." (Pl.'s 12(N)(3) Stmnt. at 3.) Thus, Dr. Radulovic concluded that Prado did not meet the minimum standards necessary for DOT certification. Id.
On February 2, 1993, Continental informed Prado that he did not pass the physical examination and that an offer of employment would not be forthcoming. On February 3, 1993, Prado filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"). Prado claimed that Continental violated the Americans with Disabilities Act("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 (1995), when it required him to undergo a medical examination without a conditional offer of employment. On September 30, 1996, the EEOC issued a notice informing Prado that he had the right to bring civil action against Continental. On December 26, 1996, Prado filed his complaint with the court. (Def.'s 12(M) Stmnt. at 3.)
On June 3, 1997, Continental filed its motion for summary judgment. Continental contends that Prado was not denied employment on the basis of any disability. Rather, Continental denied Prado's employment application simply because he was not qualified to drive a commercial motor vehicle. Specifically, Continental argues that Prado failed to meet the minimum requirements necessary for DOT certification. (Def.'s Mem. Supp. Summ. J. at 4-6.) Additionally, Continental claims that Prado is procedurally barred from bringing the instant action for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Id. at 6-8.
To successfully maintain an action under the ADA, Prado must make the predicate showing that he was a "qualified individual" for the position of driver. 42 U.S.C. § 12112; see also Best v. Shell Oil Co., 107 F.3d 544, 547-48 (7th Cir. 1997); Bombard v. Fort Wayne Newspapers, Inc., 92 F.3d 560, 563 (7th Cir. 1996). A qualified individual means "an individual with a disability who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the employment position that such individual holds or desires." 42 U.S.C. § 12111(8). Before a court examines whether an individual can perform "the essential functions" of a position, it must first determine whether the applicant "satisfies the prerequisites for the position, such as possessing the appropriate educational background, employment experience, skills, licenses, etc." 29 C.F.R. app. § 1630 (1996). An ADA plaintiff bears the burden of meeting this threshold inquiry and failure to do so requires a grant of summary judgment. Weiler v. Household Fin. Corp., 101 F.3d 519, 523 (7th Cir. 1996); DeLuca v. Winer Indus., Inc., 53 F.3d 793, 797 (7th Cir. 1995).
Although the purpose of the ADA is to eliminate discrimination of disabled persons in the workforce, 42 U.S.C. § 12101(b), the ADA recognizes that employers may establish job qualification standards which have the effect of denying employment to disabled persons based on a disability. In relevant part, 42 U.S.C. § 12113 provides:
It may be a defense to a charge of discrimination under this chapter that an alleged application of qualification standards, tests, or selection criteria that screen out or tend to screen out or otherwise deny a job or benefit to an individual with a disability has been shown to be job-related and consistent with business necessity . . . .