Van Patten v. State of Oregon

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Court of Appeals
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: 09-02-2015
  • Case #: A155862
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: DeVore, P.J., for the Court; Garrett, J.; & Schuman, S.J.
  • Full Text Opinion

If the statutory language is plain, a case must be determined according to the terms of the statute; however, where a term is ambiguous the phrases must be determined within the context of the current proceedings. It is unclear where there even exists a Due Process right to privacy, but if such a right exists it must be considered in light of the specific provisions of the challenged act and any intrusions must be weighed against the public interest.

Plaintiffs are State employees who hold State-subsidized health insurance, and they appealed a grant of summary judgment by the trial court to Defendant, the State of Oregon. Plaintiffs asserted that a self-assessment questionnaire violated provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and were also a violation of the Fourth Amendment protection from unlawful searches. More specifically, Plaintiffs argued that the questionnaires were “specific inquiries” and thus prohibited by the ADA. The Court held that the term used in the ADA was ambiguous, and thus interpreted the term “with a view to [its] place in the overall statutory scheme.” The Court concluded that the statutory scheme of the ADA was to govern the relationship between employer and employee, and with the facts of the case present the argument set forth by the Plaintiffs introduced “a foreign and extraneous concept” not governed by the ADA (Plaintiffs argued would ban the flow of information between employees and third parties). Plaintiffs next argued that the questionnaires violated a specific provision of Oregon law that prohibited medical inquires of an employee by an employer, however, the Court quickly determined that the questionnaires did not violate the Oregon law because the law is to be construed to the extent possible by the ADA, and also that this contention fails to address the question of whether the questionnaires were disability inquiries. Finally, Plaintiffs argued a violation of the Fourth Amendment and their right of Due Process to the privacy of their medical information. The Court determined the questionnaires did not violate the Fourth Amendment because it only protects against physical searches. The Due Process argument also failed because, as the Court explained, the interest of the State in providing for the health of its employees outweighed the interest of the employees wanting to keep their information private, in the face of a number of mitigating factors (such as the strict disclosure prohibitions). Affirmed.

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