Sunday, 29 July 2007

Americans with Disabilities Act Restoration Act introduced

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The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed into law in 1990 to prevent discrimination on the basis of a disability. Unfortunately, when it comes to employment, people with medical conditions are falling through the cracks -- including people with diabetes. John W. Griffin, Jr., Chair of the American Diabetes Association's (ADA) Legal Advocacy Subcommittee gave an excellent explanation of this injustice. Mr. Griffin stated Supreme Court decisions have created a climate where the better someone manages their medical condition, the less likely the courts can protect them in a case of discrimination. Many people in good control of their diabetes haven't a legal leg to stand upon if they are denied a job for having diabetes.

Take Stephen Orr, a former pharmacist with Wal-Mart. His first manager hired him under the agreement that Stephen, a diabetic, would close the pharmacy a half hour each day so he could eat lunch to keep his blood sugars steady over his ten-hour shift. A new Wal-Mart district manager came on the scene and didn't want him to take the lunch breaks, so they fired him. Orr filed a claim against the Big Box of all Big Boxes, with the Americans with Disabilities Act clearly on his side, right? Nope. Wal-Mart said Orr did not have a disability because he was able to manage his disease through insulin and diet. The courts agreed. What? Well, the Supreme Court has directed courts to consider "mitigating measures" when determining a disability -- these measures include medications, prosthetics, diet and exercise or any treatment. So the courts would not review the case since Orr was not protected by the law due to his good diabetic control.

Stephen Orr is not the only victim. The Supreme Court's ridiculously narrow interpretation of the definition of disability has validated the lower courts' restrictions of coverage under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A study of employment cases between 1992-1998 by the American Bar Association revealed employers won over 90 percent of the time.

Thank goodness bipartisan legislation is on its way. Now we need it signed into law. The Americans with Disabilities Act Restoration Act (what a mouthful) was introduced July 26 by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Representative James Sensenbrenner and Senators Tom Harkin and Arlen Specter. The bill would change the definition of "disability" so discrimination, like Stephen Orr's, would be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. It would also prevent the consideration of "mitigating measures" by the courts. Here's a comprehensive article by the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities which explains how the Supreme Court twisted the original legislation's ability to broadly protect every man, woman and child with a disability. It also gives more detail on Stephen Orr's case, along with other discrimination stories.

It is entirely disconcerting the Americans with Disabilities Act has not been protecting people with chronic illnesses in the workplace. I'm no lawyer, but it make no sense that a person with diabetes is discriminated at the workplace for consuming a meal they require to remain in good control of their disease. Absolute hogwash -- Wal-Mart should be ashamed of themselves. But maybe this blatant discrimination raised a giant red flag, fueling the work by legal advocates to get it fixed. The American Diabetes Association strongly supports this new legislation, and I admire the efforts of the ADA's Legal Advocacy Subcommittee in protecting people with diabetes. Read more in PR Newswire.

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