Posts tagged as:

disabled rights

“MIAMI – In a verdict in favor of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a jury has found that a licensed security guard with only one arm was unlawfully discriminated against based on his limb loss when his employer removed him from his post following a customer complaint about his disability, the federal agency announced today.” The agency said it was well-settled under federal anti-discrimination law that employers cannot act on the basis of discriminatory consumer preferences. [EEOC press release]

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Kansas: “A federal jury Tuesday awarded a former McPherson police officer who was found sleeping on duty almost $1 million in wages and damages. Matthew B. Michaels alleged the city violated his civil rights, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family Medical Leave Act and the Kansas Wage Payment Act. He was fired from the McPherson Police Department in July 2012. Michaels said he was discriminated against because of a sleep apnea disability.” [McPherson Sentinel]

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“Because a blind or visually impaired individual cannot discern the visual cues displayed on the kiosk controls, they cannot independently browse, select and pay for DVDs at kiosks, and instead must rely upon sighted companions or strangers to assist them,” states the complaint, filed in a Pittsburgh federal court by Robert Johoda. “Further, the blind or visually impaired consumer must divulge personal information, including their zip codes, to sighted companions or strangers in order to complete a transaction at the kiosks.” [Legal NewsLine]

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Disabled rights roundup

by Walter Olson on September 5, 2014

  • Willingness of Connecticut courts to order accommodation of mental disorders is not limitless, as in case of “dazed and confused” teacher who “frequently reported to the wrong school or for the wrong class” [Chris Engler at Dan Schwartz's Connecticut Employment Law Blog; Langello v. West Haven Board of Education]
  • “‘Seinfeld’ diner sued for not being handicap-friendly” [NY Post] Florida lawyers descend on New Jersey to file ADA suits [N.J. Civil Justice Institute]
  • “Plaintiffs want to expand lawsuit against Disney for how it treats guests with autism” [Orlando Sentinel]
  • It’s “sad that we need a federal appellate court to remind us” that ADA’s protection of alcoholism does not actually immunize worker fired after repeatedly driving municipal employer’s vehicles drunk [Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer Law Blog]
  • “Employers beware: EEOC appears to be stepping up disability discrimination enforcement” [Hyman] EEOC sues Wal-Mart over firing of intellectually disabled employee [Rockford Register-Star, EEOC]
  • Nice crowd your ADA racket attracts, California [Modesto Bee]
  • Argument: Employers that use “emotional intelligence” measurement in evaluating job applicants may be violating ADA rights of those with autism [Michael John Carley, HuffPo]

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“The suit, filed by three mobility-impaired plaintiffs from San Antonio and Houston, claims that Uber and Lyft have violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, or ADA, by failing to provide a way for wheelchair users to take advantage of their services.” [Ted Troutman, Next City] Both services serve as intermediaries for users to offer rides in their vehicles.

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“The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 12-6 in favor of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” I’ve outlined the insuperable problems with the CRPD on many occasions, e.g. here (see also here, here, etc.). It’s not clear why Sens. Robert Dole and John McCain would think the best way to honor American military veterans is to yield up U.S. sovereignty over large swaths of domestic governance. [Reuters]

She’s suing Fulton Financial, her employer, under New Jersey’s state equivalent of the ADA for its resistance to accommodating her by switching her to less stressful commuting hours [Courier-Post]

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“The Texas Supreme Court overturned a $362,000 disability discrimination judgment awarded to a captain for the City of Houston fire department who was removed from firefighting duties because his fear of entering burning buildings made him a danger to himself and others. City of Houston v. Proler, No. 12-1006 (Tex. June 6, 2014). According to the court, no reasonable jury could have found that his fear of entering burning buildings constituted a disability under the ADA or Texas law.” However, the court based its decision on the state of the law before Congress drastically widened ADA eligibility in 2009, so it’s not clear how such a case might come out if filed today. [Kevin Cox, Kollman & Saucier, P.A.; Eric B. Meyer]

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  • In banking and FCPA cases, targets of DOJ prosecution are disproportionately firms domiciled abroad, and other countries do notice that [Jesse Eisinger, NYT "DealBook"]
  • “Los Angeles’ Confused Suit against Mortgage Lenders” [Mark Calabria, Cato] Providence also using disparate impact suits in hopes of making banks pay for its housing failures [Funnell]
  • Podcast discussion on Operation Chokepoint with Charles J. Cooper, Iain Murray, and Todd J. Zywicki [Federalist Society, earlier]
  • New round of suits against banks based on ATMs’ imperfect wheelchair accessibility [ABA Journal, earlier here]
  • Walgreen’s could save billions in taxes if it moved to Switzerland from U.S. Whose fault if anyone’s is that? [Tax Foundation]
  • “Left unmentioned: how fed regulation and trial lawyers deter banks from protecting themselves with overdraft fees.” [@tedfrank on NYT report about banks' use of databases to turn down business from persons with records of overdrawing accounts, a practice that now itself is being targeted for regulation]
  • Scheme to seize mortgages through eminent domain stalling as cities decline to come on board [Kevin Funnell]

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  • Blockbuster “web accessibility” issue, with potential for massive disruption of online life, continues to drag on without action in Washington despite urgings from academics; but at Ninth Circuit’s behest, California Supreme Court will decide whether state’s Disabled Persons Act covers websites [David Ettinger, Horwitz & Levy] More: Amy Alkon and commenters;
  • Federal district judge (E.D.N.Y.), suspecting foul play in multiple ADA filings, sends staff to investigate, but that’s a no-no as the Second Circuit reminds him [Josh Blackman]
  • Noting “continuing paranoia and obsession,” Vermont Supreme Court rebuffs bar applicant claiming discrimination on basis of mental illness [ABA Journal]
  • Just fine and dander: optician’s shop in suburban Detroit turns down worker’s request to bring service dog for generalized anxiety disorder, will pay $53,000 in settlement [EEOC]
  • Attack on “sheltered workshops” fits into multi-front effort to extend reach of federal wage-hour law: “Landmark DOJ settlement with RI provides road map to disability-law compliance for 49 other states” [ABA Journal]
  • Coalition politics counts: prominent disabled-rights groups [AAPD, DREDF, Bazelon Center, etc.] favor driving up cost of at-home attendants at expense of their own putative constituents [Benjamin Sachs, On Labor, on Harris v. Quinn amicus]
  • “Alcoholism and the ADA: Not as clear-cut as you think” [Dan Wisniewski, HR Morning, on Crosby v. F.W. Webb Co.] “Playing golf and having sex are major life activities under the ADA” [Eric B. Meyer]

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If employers think they’ve got discretion to decide whether a job requires on-the-spot attendance, they’ve got another think coming [Daniel Schwartz, Jon Hyman]:

In EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found that a former Ford employee could proceed to a trial on her claim that the company was required to allow her to telecommute on a regular basis. …

[The plaintiff was a] “resale buyer” at Ford who responded to emergency steel supply issues to make sure that parts manufacturers always had an adequate steel supply on hand.

According to Ford, her job required group problem solving, including interaction with other members of the resale team and suppliers….

[The court said that while] attendance at work is still an essential function of most jobs, “attendance” can no longer be assumed to mean presence at the physical workplace.

Instead, the court said, a jury should decide whether physical attendance is an “essential function” of the job under all the circumstances. Earlier here and, at Cato, here.

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How far can an employee go in ADA demands before finally going too far? [Charles Toutant, New Jersey Law Journal]

The lawyer, a deputy attorney general known as E.H. in court papers, made 30 requests for special treatment in the course of his first year on the job—ranging from reserved indoor parking, adjusted timing on elevator doors, a grab handle in the rest room and transportation to court appearances—all of which were granted.

He sued because his 31st request—for a personal assistant who would “function as his shadow”—was refused.

On Thursday, an appeals court ruled that the Attorney General’s Office did not violate laws against disability discrimination. The court said deference was due the findings of the Civil Service Commission that an assistant was not warranted because it would not help E.H. address his weak job performance.

When the Americans with Disabilities Act was new, there was hopeful talk among some disability advocates of what some wary employers nicknamed “two-for-one” hiring — demands that a second employee be put on payroll to assist the first. While courts have generally declined to go along with this idea, it is sobering to think the issue might be close enough that the worker’s very poor job evaluations might have mattered one way or the other.

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  • Mayor de Blasio settles firefighter bias suit on terms sympathetic to plaintiffs [City Journal: Dennis Saffran and Seth Barron]
  • One way to dodge some Culture War fights: roll meaning of “public accommodation” back to travel, lodgings, places of public amusement, etc. [Andrew Kloster, Heritage] As original/creative expression goes, florists and cake-bakers sometimes outdo NYT’s Greenhouse [Ann Althouse] From Dixie Chicks to Hobby Lobby, few escape hypocrisy when commerce collides with convictions [Barton Hinkle]
  • Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights investigating Florida’s popular Bright Futures college scholarship program [Orlando Sentinel]
  • Do EEOC mediators overstate risk of legal action to extract big settlements from employers? [Bloomberg BNA, Merrily Archer on survey] New Colorado expansion of employment liability bad news for large and small employers alike [Archer]
  • “Religious exemptions — a guide for the confused” [Eugene Volokh]
  • Washington Post columnist repeats myth that Lilly Ledbetter “did not know she was being paid less than male counterparts” until after statute of limitations had run; Hans Bader corrects [letter to editor]
  • If helping out local people was one reason your town decided to back public housing, you might have been played for suckers [AP on DoJ suit against Long Island town over local preference]

“Families with autistic children have sued Walt Disney Co., alleging the company does not provide adequate access to theme park visitors with autism who have difficulty waiting in long lines for rides.” [Reuters/Chicago Tribune]

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Not an April Fool’s: we’ve covered the saga of Judge Cynthia Brim in two earlier posts. Chicago voters re-elected her to the bench despite troubles which eventuated in a successful defense to misdemeanor battery charges on the ground of insanity. [Chicago Tribune, auto-plays annoyingly]

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Speak not of walkability

by Walter Olson on March 25, 2014

“From a realtor: ‘Regarding the Metro, I never putting “walk to..” on my listings because when I took my GRI classes they warned us that “walk to” might trigger a complaint of discrimination against people with disabilities.’ Sigh…” — David Bernstein, law professor and author of “You Can’t Say That! The Threat To Civil Liberties from Antidiscrimination Laws

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Suppose an enterprise has an 81-year-old executive who’s currently able to perform well, but has had recent health problems and faces a significant actuarial risk of disablement or worse within a few years. Suppose the continued tenure of this executive complicates the enterprise’s future, through sheer uncertainty (since an unforeseen departure crisis might come at just the wrong time) and because certain high-quality potential successors available to step in now might not be available two or three years hence.

Is it somehow illegitimate or invidious even to think through considerations like these, because the absolutely only relevant factor is how well the person can perform the job right now?

If you say, “yes, it’s totally illegitimate and invidious, you should be ashamed of thinking this way” then congratulations: current federal workplace law is on your side. Disabled-rights law makes it legally hazardous for an employer, in the course of pretty much any action — say, career counseling of existing employees — to consider the risk of future recurrence of a disabling condition now in remission. Age-discrimination law makes it unlawful to treat an 81-year-old as lacking any advantage that a 46-year-old might bring to an enterprise with long time horizons — and again, just evidence that an employer has been thinking along these lines is a lawsuit risk whether or not it actually proceeds to send hints to an individual employee about passing on the torch. In the Mad Men era, employers routinely had policies expecting their executives to retire at a certain age; now the law bans such policies, whether the age in question be 65, 75, or 85.

If on the other hand you say, “no, it’s not illegitimate, it’s just common sense to acknowledge factors associated with age and disability as part of life and we all take them into account whether we admit it or not,” then come on over and join the unlikely duo of me and, more importantly, the distinguished Prof. Erwin Chemerinsky, who applies all this logic to the situation of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Now as it happens, on the particulars of this one case, I don’t go along with Chemerinsky’s conclusion; I find myself more swayed by Prof. Garrett Epps’s rather more gracious argument that Ginsburg has good reason to stay, especially as the intellectual firepower of the Court’s left wing might well take a hit if she leaves.

It’s great to know, though, that Prof. Chemerinsky sees through the flimsy rationale that underlies these sectors of discrimination law. I was afraid he was going to turn out to be some kind of big liberal.

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