Sunday, March 2, 2014
Nicole Porter (Toledo) has posted on SSRN her article The New ADA Backlash. She's presented on this and related several times recently, including at my law school, and I think it's spot-on. Here's the abstract:
Many believe the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) suffered from a significant backlash by courts, only corrected by the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) in 2008. Following the ADAAA, it seemed likely the judicial backlash would continue in new ways. My analysis suggests that although the backlash has not happened as dramatically as some feared, there is reason to anticipate a new backlash against the ADA.
The initial backlash to the ADA consisted of courts strictly interpreting the definition of disability so that very few cases made it past the threshold coverage question. This Article first seeks to determine whether courts are following Congress’s mandate in the ADAAA to broadly interpret the definition of disability, making it easier for an employee to get past the threshold question of whether the employee meets the statutory definition of disability. The answer to this first inquiry is “yes” — the courts are interpreting the definition of disability much more broadly, allowing many more plaintiffs to survive summary judgment on this issue.
However, a new backlash may be coming, and it could take two forms. First, courts could broadly construe the “essential functions of the position,” giving great deference to what the employer designates as the essential functions and thereby excluding individuals with disabilities from protection. And second, courts could use the ambiguity of the word “reasonable,” to hold that many accommodations are not reasonable, thereby eliminating the available remedies for employees with disabilities. My analysis of court decisions on these issues since the passage of the ADAAA shows somewhat mixed results.
The most interesting result is that there appears to be a real backlash against the ADA when the employee is requesting an accommodation related to the structural norms of the workplace — the hours, shift, schedule, attendance, and leave policies. Courts are quite reluctant to require employers to modify these structural norms of their workplaces. Based on this last conclusion, this paper explores why the structural norms of the workplace appear to be so immune to judicial scrutiny.
Friday, February 21, 2014
Last spring, the Wefel Center for Employment Law at Saint Louis University held a fantastic symposium on Teaching Employment and Labor Law. I can say that with appropriate modesty because I had very little to do with it. The symposium was organized by Tonie Fitzgibbon, my amazing colleague, who has been the Director of our center for twenty years, and who was the Assistant Director at its inception. I'm pretty sure it was my colleague Miriam Cherry's idea, and Matt Bodie, Elizabeth Pendo, and I all agreed it would be a good topic. In addition to us, Marion Crain and Pauline Kim (Wash. U.), Rachel Arnow-Richman (Denver), Laura Cooper (Minnesota), Marty Malin (Chicago-Kent), Nicole Porter (Toledo), Joe Slater (Toledo), and Kerri Stone (Florida International) all gave presentations.
The Saint Louis University Law Journal has just published the papers connected with the symposium, so now everyone can read about what we who were there got to hear. From the table of contents:
Teaching Employment and Labor Law Symposium
Susan A. FitzGibbon
Teaching Employment and Labor Law
A Holistic Approach to Teaching Work Law
Marion Crain & Pauline T. Kim
Employment Law Inside Out: Using the Problem Method to Teach Workplace Law
Teaching Employment Discrimination Law, Virtually
Miriam A. Cherry
A Proposal to Improve the Workplace Law Curriculum from a Compliance Perspective
Nicole Buonocore Porter
Teaching the Post-Sex Generation
Kerri Lynn Stone
You should check them out.
February 21, 2014 in Conferences & Colloquia, Disability, Employment Common Law, Employment Discrimination, Faculty Presentations, Labor Law, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Scholarship, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Friday, January 24, 2014
The Fourth Circuit issued an opinion yesterday on an issue of first impression under the ADA as it's been amended by the ADAAA. In Summers v. Altarum Institute Corp, the court held that a temporary disability can be a disability for purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act, reversing a dismissal and remanding the case for further proceedings.
The plaintiff was a government contractor who was assigned to a workplace he had to travel some distance to get to. One day, on the way to work, he fell getting off of his train and seriously injured both legs. Without surgery, pain medication, and physical therapy, it would likely be a year before he would be able to walk, and with that treatment, it would likely be seven months. Almost immediately after the injury, the plaintiff suggested to his employer ways that he could work remotely and then work up to working again on site for the client, but instead of working on a plan, his employer encouraged him to take short term disability and then later terminated him. The plaintiff sued, alleging that he was discharged because of his disability.
The district court dismissed his claim, holding that "a temporary condition, even up to a year, does not fall within the purview of the [A]ct,” so the plaintiff failed to allege that he was disabled within the meaning of the ADA. The court also suggested that the plaintiff was not disabled because he could have worked with the assistance of a wheelchair.
The court of appeals held that the plaintiff was substantially limited in the major life activity of walking even though he would eventually be able to walk again. The court acknowledged that under pre-ADAAA precedent, namely Toyota v. Williams, 534 U.S. 184 (2002), that temporary disabilities were not covered. In the ADAAA, though, Congress explicitly expanded the definition of disability and explained it was doing so to reverse the effects of narrowing Supreme Court decisions including Toyota.
Moreover, Congress directed the EEOC to revise its regulations to broaden the definition, and the EEOC did so after notice and comment. The revised regulations provide that effects of an impairment lasting even less than six months can be substantially limiting enough to constitute a disability. Duration of the impairment is one factor to consider, but severity of the impairment is also important. The more severe the impairment, the shorter the duration needed for the impairment to substantially limit a major life activity. Finally, the court held that the cause of the impairment was not relevant, at least between whether an impairment was caused by a long-term or permanent disability or an injury because the EEOC's regulations use impairment and injury interchangeably in several places in the regulations. The court gave all of these regulations Chevron deference finding that they were highly reasonable interpretations of the amended statute.
Regarding the possibility that the impairments might last less time with surgery, pain medication, and physical therapy, and that the plaintiff could be mobile enough to get to the workplace with a wheelchair, the court noted that those factors could not be considered in deciding whether the plaintiff had a disability. Doing so may have been appropriate under pre-amendment Supreme Court precedent, namely Sutton v. United Airlines, 527 U.S. 471 (1999), although the court did not cite to that case. Again, Congress specifically abrogated that case along with the other cases that narrowed the definition of disability. The court of appeals noted that the EEOC regulations prohibited considering mitigating measures, and even more importantly, that to consider an accommodation which would allow the plaintiff to work before considering whether he was an individual with a disability turned the proper inquiry on its head in a way that would eviscerate the ADA.
The plaintiff had also raised a failure to accommodate claim at the district court level, but did not raise it on appeal, and so the court of appeals did not analyze that claim.
This case is a very important one for a number of reasons. It is the first court of appeals case to consider whether a person who suffers a temporary impairment can be considered disabled under the ADA. The decision also confirmed that the disability question is not going to be, in many cases, a big hurdle for a plaintiff, and that the EEOC regulations should be afforded deference. It also provides a context-specific test for determining whether a person is disabled that sticks to the statutory language of whether the impairment at issue substantially limits a major life activity. Substantiality is to be considered both as a question of duration, but also as a question of quantity and quality.
The case will obviously impact many situations in which worker injuries cause relatively serious and relatively long-lasting impairments, and may impact whether employers can continue to distinguish in accommodations between on-the-job and off-the-job injuries. It also may influence whether at least some limitations caused by pregnancy have to be accommodated. Thus, this is a decision with potentially far-reaching consequences.
h/t Jonathan Harkavy
Monday, January 20, 2014
Michael Ashley Stein (Executive Director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability) writes to tell us of the new disability workplace law book he has co-edited with Jody Heymann and Gonzalo Moreno.
Despite international and national guarantees of equal rights, there remains a great deal to be done to achieve global employment equality for individuals with disabilities. In OECD countries, the employment rate of persons with disabilities was just over 40%, compared to 75% for persons without a disability; in many low- and middle-income countries, the employment rates are even lower.
There are numerous reasons why persons with disabilities fare poorly in the labor market; Disability and Equity at Work is the first book to document what can be done to improve this imbalance.
Follow the link above to find this important and timely book on the rights of the disabled in the workplace. It is sure to be at the center of the conversation of how to improve employment outcomes for the disabled for many years to come.
Friday, December 13, 2013
Early yesterday morning, Chai Feldblum was re-confirmed to another 5-year term at the EEOC. Congratulations, and great news for the EEOC, which will remain fully staffed. Chai has been a great resource for the Commission, having been instrumental in negotiating the ADA and ADAAA, an expert on ENDA, and a voice for cooperation and public outreach with Commissioner Lipnic.
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Friend of the blog Marcy Karin (ASU) writes to remind us of a symposium/CLE that readers of the blog will be interested in, especially those of you in the New York area. On Friday, Hofstra's Labor and Employment Law Journal will be holding a symposium on health legislation and the workplace. Forging a Path: Dissecting Controversial Health Legislation in the Workplace. The symposium will take place at Hofstra University Club, David S. Mack Hall, North Campus, Hofstra University, on Friday, November 1, 2013, from 9 am to 3 pm.
The lineup is impressive. Here are the details:
Keynote Speaker: Phyllis Borzi, Assistant Secretary for Employee Benefits Security, U.S. Department of Labor
Panel 1: The Evolution of Anti-Discrimination Disability Laws: Defining Reasonable Accommodation and Disability
- Rick Ostrove ’96, Partner, Leeds Brown Law, PC
- Keith Frank ’89, Partner, Perez & Varvaro
- Marcy Karin, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, Work-Life Policy Unit, Civil Justice Clinic, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University
- Jeffrey Schlossberg ’84, Of Counsel, Jackson Lewis LLP
- E. Pierce Blue, Special Assistant and Attorney Advisor, Office of Commissioner Chai Feldblum, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Panel 2: Workplace Uncertainties Under the ACA: Preparing the Employer and Employee for the Road Ahead
- Jill Bergman, Vice President of Compliance, Chernoff Diamond & Co., LLC
- Steven Friedman, Shareholder and Co-Chair, Employee Benefits Practice Group, Littler Mendelson P.C.
Panel 3: The FMLA 20 Years Later: What Have We Learned and Where Do We Go From Here?
- Robin Runge, Professorial Lecturer in Law, George Washington University Law School
- Rona Kitchen, Assistant Professor of Law, Duquesne University School of Law
- Joseph Lynett, Partner, Jackson Lewis LLP
- Nicole Porter, Professor of Law, The University of Toledo College of Law
Registration is $100 per person. Includes continental breakfast, lunch and CLE credits. Free for Hofstra University students, faculty, staff and administrators.
Sponsored by: Littler Mendelson P.C.
October 30, 2013 in Conferences & Colloquia, Disability, Employment Discrimination, Faculty Presentations, Pension and Benefits, Scholarship, Worklife Issues, Workplace Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Thanks to Susan Carle (American) for bringing to my attention that The Journal of Gender, Social Policy & the Law at American University Washington College of Law is currently compiling articles for a disability law themed issue, focused on new and cross-cutting developments in the field and how disability law intersects with other areas of law. Here is the Call for Papers which outlines what the Journal is looking for in greater detail.
The submission deadline for this volume is November 25, 2013 and the issue will be published in the late spring/early summer of 2014.
Submissions should be e-mailed to email@example.com. Any questions you have can also be directed to that e-mail.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
Laura Rothstein (Louisville) has just posted on SSRN her essay Disability Discrimination Law: The Impact on Legal Education and the Legal Profession. Here's the abstract (the much-longer version of this article will be published by the American University Journal of Gender, Social Policy, and the Law in the spring as the lead article in a symposium issue):
Disability discrimination law affects every lawyer, even those who do not plan to represent clients with disabilities or practice in the area of discrimination law. It also affects every law school and every institution of law, from the courts to federal governmental agencies. It affects gatekeepers to legal practice - the Law School Admission Council and the state bar admission authorities. It applies to areas of concern for the American Bar Association accreditation process and the Association of American Law Schools membership requirements. The fortieth anniversary of the beginning of federal policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability is a good time to reflect on the impact on legal education and the legal profession.
I've had the pleasure of knowing Laura as a disability expert and advocate since the days I was still practicing in Houston and we served together on the Texas Bar Association Disability Committee together. What Laura doesn't say in her essay -- but I will say here -- is that many if not most of the changes she describes in her essay have happened in large part because she pushed hard for them -- not just in her scholarship but in the trenches -- and often despite fierce opposition from entrenched interests or from equally powerful inertia. Laura is a law school professor who has made a profound difference in the lives not only of her students, but in society at large.
Friday, September 6, 2013
Steve Befort (Minnesota) has just posted on SSRN his forthcoming article in the Washington & Lee Law Review entitled: An Empirical Analysis of Case Outcomes Under the ADA Amendments Act.
Here is the abstract:
Congress enacted the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) in order to override four Supreme Court decisions that had narrowly restricted the scope of those protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and to provide "a national mandate for the elimination of discrimination." This article undertakes an empirical examination of the impact of the ADAA on case outcomes. The recent reported cases provide a unique opportunity for such an examination since, with the ADAAA not retroactively applicable to cases pending prior to its effective date, courts have been simultaneously deciding cases under both the pre-amendment and post-amendment standards. This study examines all reported federal court summary judgment decisions arising under Title I of the ADA for a forty-month period extending from January 1, 2010 to April 30, 2013. The study coded the pre-ADAAA and post-ADAAA decisions for both disability standing determinations and for rulings on whether the plaintiff was qualified for the job in question. These preliminary data show that the federal courts are granting employers a significantly smaller proportion of summary judgment rulings under the ADAAA on the basis of a lack of disability status. In addition, the ADAAA decisions exhibit a greater prevalence of rulings on the issue of whether the plaintiff is a qualified individual. On the other hand, the post-amendment decisions show an increased tendency for the courts to find that the plaintiff is not qualified. While the rate of increase in plaintiff victories on the disability issue is outpacing the rate of increase in plaintiff losses on the qualified issue, the latter phenomenon suggest a continuing judicial unease with disability discrimination claims generally and with reasonable accommodation requests more specifically.
Fascinating and yet what I suspected would occur once the definition of disability was amended in the ADAAA to be more employee-friendly: judges would use other parts of the legal analysis to kick these cases out of court on summary judgment before trial. I hope that Congress will consider updating the "qualified individual with a disability"/reasonable accommodation strand of these Title I ADA cases so that the purposes of the statute can be better vindicated.
Of course, I am also not holding my breath that Congress will take up this topic anytime soon.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Congratulations to Michael Stein (William & Mary), Anita Silvers (San Francisco State-Philosophy), Brad Areheart (Tennessee), and Leslie Francis (Utah), all of who just posted to SSRN their co-authored paper forthcoming in the University of Chicago Law Review entitled: Accommodating Every Body.
Here is the abstract:
This Article contends that workplace accommodations should be predicated on need or effectiveness instead of group identity status. It proposes “accommodating every body” by extending an Americans with Disabilities Act reasonable accommodation mandate to all work-capable members of the general population for whom accommodation is necessary to enable their ability to work. Doing so shifts the focus of accommodation disputes from the contentious identity-based contours of “disabled” plaintiffs to the core issue of alleged discrimination. This proposal likewise avoids current problems associated with excluding “unworthy” individuals from employment opportunity—people whose functional capacity does not comply with prevailing workforce design and organizational presumptions—and who therefore require accommodation. Adopting this proposal also responds to growing demands to extend the length of time people remain at work by enhancing employment opportunities for aging individuals still capable of contributing on the job. Provision of accommodations for age-related alteration of functionality, when the accommodations are effective, is reasonably prescribed because everyone hopes to retain maximum capabilities as they grow older, whether or not they also possess identity-based characteristics sufficient to constitute a “disability” under the ADA.
This is a wonderful new addition to the disability rights theory literature, which advances a new approach that anyone who studies employment discrimination law or disability law should consider seriously in thinking about how and when to accommodate workers with different types of abilities in the workplace.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
A waitress at a Missouri Hooter's restaurant alleges that her post-brain surgery appearance cost her her job. Following the removal of a brain tumor, her bosses at Hooters ordered her to wear a wig to cover up her bald head and surgical scar. She responded that she couldn't afford a wig (Hooter's didn't offer to pay for it) and when she tried to wear a borrowed one, it hurt her healing wound. Then, according the the waitress, her hours were reduced so much that she had to quit. Our own Marcia McCormick was quoted on her ADA suit in the ABC News story:
Marcia McCormick, an associate professor of law at St. Louis University, said Lupo's surgery to remove a brain mass qualifies as a disability, but that Hooters could argue that her appearance was a bona fide qualification for her job.
"In the disability context, if Hooters is to say she's not as attractive now without this wig, if they're selling her attractiveness that might be a real function of her job and mean she isn't qualified by the Americans With Disabilities Act," McCormick said.
"Most companies can't say something like this, but Hooters sells this experience," she said.
There's at least something of a good ending, no matter what happens to the case, as the waitress, who was a nursing student at the time, is now employed as a trauma nurse.
Hat Tip: Joe Seiner
Friday, March 29, 2013
Kevin Barry (Quinnipiac University - School of Law) has posted on SSRN his article in the Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal (Vol. 17, No. 1, 2013): Exactly What Congress Intended?
Here is the abstract:
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed by Congress and signed into law in 1990 with tremendous bipartisan support and high hopes. When President George H.W. Bush signed it, he called the law a "sledgehammer" to shatter a "shameful wall of exclusion". Unfortunately, for many people with disabilities experiencing discrimination on the job, the ADA turned out to be more of a rubber mallet. The Supreme Court, in a series of decisions in 1999 and 2002, gutted the ADA by narrowly interpreting its definition of "disability". In 2008, Congress fired back by passing the ADA Amendments Act [ADAAA] of 2008. This Article discusses the Congress-courts dialectic surrounding the ADA: from its passage in 1990, to the pit of Supreme Court jurisprudence, to the advocacy effort that swung the pendulum back to Congress. While judicial interpretations of the Amendments are just beginning to surface, they are, for the most part, exactly what Congress intended.
Kevin tells us that this piece is part of a larger education and outreach effort among several law school clinics, employee-side attorneys, and other interested groups, which is working to respond to some issues with respect to the ADAAA's implementation. Looks to be a short, user-friendly article that tells the story of the ADA's passage, its amendment in 2008, and its current interpretation by courts post-ADAAA. Check it out!
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) has been heralded for restoring the protected class of individuals with disabilities to the broad scope that Congress intended when it enacted the original Americans with Disabilities Act over two decades ago. But the ADAAA accomplished something even more profound. By restricting the accommodation mandate only to individuals whose impairments are or have been substantially limiting, and by expanding basic antidiscrimination protection to cover individuals with nearly all forms of physical or mental impairment, the ADAAA extricated disability from the broader concept of impairment and implicitly bestowed upon impairment the status of an independent protected class under federal antidiscrimination law. The ADAAA's effective elevation of impairment to protected class status demands a deeper understanding of the ways in which impairment discrimination - as distinct from disability discrimination - manifests itself in the workplace. This Article explores one aspect of that larger inquiry by analyzing whether impairment discrimination encompasses employment decisionmaking based on the symptoms of an impairment or on the mitigating measures that one uses for an impairment. This Article demonstrates that understanding symptom-based and mitigation-based decisionmaking as a form of impairment discrimination is not only consistent with the statutory language and legislative intent, but also accurately reflects the social, medical, and practical reality of what it means to be "impaired."
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Nicole Porter (Toledo; visiting Denver) has been busy -- she's just posted to SSRN her second article within a week. Her newest is Mutual Marginalization: Individuals with Disabilities and Workers with Caregiving Responsibilities. Here's the abstract:
This paper explores the marginalization of two groups of employees — individuals with disabilities and workers with caregiving responsibilities. One might argue that these two groups have little in common. In fact, however, while not perfectly aligned, these two groups of individuals have much in common in the workplace. First, these employees are unable to consistently meet their employers’ expectations of an “ideal worker.” Thus, they often must seek adjustments or modifications in the workplace to accommodate for their failure to conform to the ideal worker norm. This causes both groups of employees to suffer from “special treatment stigma,” which manifests itself in resentment by co-workers because of the special benefits these employees receive and in employers’ reluctance to hire individuals belonging to these groups because of the real or perceived increased costs of employing such individuals. Despite these similarities, the law has dealt with these two groups of employees very differently. Individuals with disabilities are entitled to broad protection in the workplace, including the rather unique reasonable accommodation provision in the Americans with Disabilities Act. On the other hand, despite some laws protecting some aspects of pregnancy and caregiving, workers with caregiving responsibilities do not enjoy the same broad protection as individuals with disabilities.
In this paper, I will explore why the law treats these groups of employees differently. I will address many of the concepts that are thought to distinguish individuals with disabilities and workers with caregiving responsibilities and are therefore used to justify their different treatment under the law. But I will ultimately conclude that these distinctions, once unpacked, do not justify the law’s different treatment of these two groups. Moreover, these differences are not as significant as the similarity that binds these two groups together — the special treatment stigma. Thus, I will explore whether a combined legal and theoretical approach to eliminating the special treatment stigma is feasible and defensible. Specifically, I seek to provide theoretical justification for the reasonable accommodation provision under the ADA and argue that the same justification can be used to support an accommodation mandate for workers with caregiving responsibilities.
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Kenneth Shiotani (National Disability Rights Network) gives us the news that the Department of Labor will be publishing its final rule on the recent amendments to the FMLA that expanded coverage to flight crews and family members of those in the military--for a refresher on those expansions, see here, here and here.
February 5, 2013 in Beltway Developments, Disability, Employment Discrimination, Labor and Employment News, Pension and Benefits, Public Employment Law, Worklife Issues | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
And for some reform links, from the add paid leave camp: National Partnership for Women and Families Agenda for the 113th Congress. And from the reform abuse of leave camp: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Absence abuse and Medical Leave.
Saturday, January 5, 2013
There's a recent ADA case from the Fourth Circuit of note. In Reynolds v. American Red Cross, the court joins most of the other circuit courts in holding that the ADA Amendments do not apply retroactively—an issue that is on its way to being mooted by the passage of time. One interesting issue that was effectively mooted by that holding was the district court's willingness to aggregate defendants the American Red Cross and the relevant local affiliate for purposes of meeting the ADA's minimum number of employees. That's obviously significant for many larger entities, so we'll have to stay tuned for the court's take on this issue.
Hat Tip: Jonathon Harkavy
Saturday, September 29, 2012
Douglas Hass (Franczet Radelet) has just posted on SSRN his article (presented at the 2012 LEL Colloquium earlier this month in Chicago) Could the American Psychiatric Association Cause You Headaches? The Dangerous Interaction between the DSM-5 and Employment Law. Here's the abstract:
Since its first publication in 1952, the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) has long served not only as the primary reference for mental health disorders for medical practitioners, but also as a primary authority for the legal community. In May 2013, for the first time in nearly 20 years, the American Psychiatric Association plans to publish an entirely new edition. As proposed, the DSM-5 would significantly expand a number of existing psychological disorders and add several new ones. The new Manual is still a work in progress, published only as proposed diagnostic criteria and assessment instruments on the DSM-5 website. However, the significant proposed revisions to a wide range of mental impairments mean that the legal community’s relationship with the DSM may be forced to change given the implications that changes in the DSM-5 may have for claims under laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (claims of “disability,” requests for reasonable accommodations), Family Medical Leave Act (definitions of a “serious illness”), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and even state statutes and workers compensation laws (whether an illness is work related).
This paper discusses the major role that the DSM standards play for legal practitioners and the danger that overly expansive definitions of mental disorders could pose to employers and employees. First, the paper discusses the history and background of the DSM and its development into a de-facto legal treatise. In Part II, the paper highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the DSM-IV as a legal text. Next, the article explains the dangerous interaction between the ADA Amendments Act and the proposed DSM-5. In Part IV, the article highlights the challenges and difficulties that certain changes — from a proposed “Mild Neurocognitive Disorder” to the inclusion of deviant behavior in the definition of a mental disorder — could cause employers, employees, courts, and even federal agencies in applying employment and disability laws, and the ADA in particular. Finally, to reduce the possible unintended consequences of overly-expansive definitions, Part V summarizes specific approaches that courts, employers, employees, and legal practitioners should rely on to reduce the potential confusion and burdens caused by the impending release of the DSM-5.
Although the ADA and other employment statutes do not incorporate DSM (and indeed often define "disability" inconsistently with each other), as this article illustrates, the new DSM-5 widens even further the gulf between the APA and the ADA.
Monday, September 10, 2012
The Seventh Circuit issued an important decision on Friday in EEOC v. United Airlines, No. 11-1774. Through an unusual procedural device, the court overruled prior precedent and held that under the ADA, reassignment of an employee who becomes disabled can be a reasonable accommodation that the employer must provide. The prior case was EEOC v. Humiston-Keeling, 227 F.3d 1024 (7th Cir. 2000), in which the court had held that the ADA did not require that a vacant position be given to an employee with a disability where a better qualified employee also wanted it because the ADA was only a "nondiscrimination" statute, and not a "mandatory preference" statute. Two years later, the Supreme Court decided US Airways v. Barnett, 535 U.S. 391 (2002), holding that, in fact, sometimes the ADA did require what looked like preferential treatment of employees with disabilities to put them on an even playing field.
In EEOC v. UAL, the court remanded the matter to the district court to apply the two part test that Barnett requires: 1. Is mandatory reassignment, ordinarily, in the run of cases, a reasonable accommodation; and if so, 2. are there fact-specific considerations particular to this employer's employment system that would create an undue hardship and render mandatory reassignment unreasonable? There is an alternative test, too. If the court answers "no" to number 1, then the plaintiff has a chance to prove at step 2 that special factors make mandatory reassignment reasonable in this case. The court also gave some guidance on when mandatory reassignment will not be reasonable, i.e. in a workplace with a bona fide seniority system, something the court called rather rare and which it noted was absent here. The court suggested that it was extremely likely that the district court would find that mandatory reassignment will be reasonable in the run of cases at United Airlines.
With this decision, the 7th Circuit joined the 10th and D.C. Circuits (both of which had issued opinions en banc before Barnett) in holding that mandatory reassignment was required unless it would create an undue hardship for an employer. The 8th Circuit, which had relied on Humiston-Keeling, may want to rethink its position.
h/t Mark Weber (DePaul)
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has released for public comment a draft of its Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP). Comments must be submitted by 5:00 pm ET on September 18, 2012 at firstname.lastname@example.org or received by mail at Executive Officer, Office of the Executive Secretariat, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 131 M Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20507. The Commission plans to vote on the draft plan at the end of this fiscal year.
. . .
For general inquiries about the plan, please email email@example.com or call (202) 663-4070/(TTY: 202-663-4494). For press inquiries, please contact the Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs at (202) 663-4191 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are seeking EEOC information, please call (202) 663-4900 or email@example.com. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
And I got word of this from Commissioner Feldblum's twitter feed. If you don't follow her, you should: @chaifeldblum.