Two years ago the city of Portland, Ore. became the first to adopt a voluntary policy against fragrance use in city offices. (A similar Detroit measure had been taken in response to a lawsuit.) Now Julee Reynolds, a city worker who says she suffers from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), has sued Portland for allegedly not doing enough to enforce the policy. [KOIN; earlier here, here, etc.]
It got started with the handicapped parking placards that in California and elsewhere made their way into the possession of not-so-disabled drivers. Then there were the reports of abuse of airport wheelchair attendant service, which can get you past security fast and which (to avoid litigation, embarrassment, or both) airlines often dispense on request without inquiring into need. Now comes the rentable disabled person to help your kids cut lines at Disney World. Disney allows parties of up to seven to enter attractions separately when one of the party is disabled. According to the New York Post, some affluent Manhattan mothers are happy to pay for the convenience: “The ‘black-market Disney guides’ run $130 an hour, or $1,040 for an eight-hour day.” [Tara Palmeri, "Rich Manhattan moms hire handicapped tour guides so kids can cut lines at Disney World," New York Post]
P.S. Too good to check? Commenter Marco and Christopher Robbins at Gothamist both have their doubts on whether the hazily sourced accounts might be embellished or worse.
P.P.S. And quite a lot more skepticism about the story from Lesley at XOJane. But (update) an NBC News investigation finds there does seem to be something to the story.
“A police officer fired for driving drunk in an unmarked police car while off-duty has filed a $6 million lawsuit against the city of Gresham, the police chief and others, alleging his rights were violated under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The lawsuit filed in Portland alleged the officer, Jason Servo, was suffering from alcoholism, a recognized disability under the act, and shouldn’t have been dismissed.” [AP] In my book The Excuse Factory I sketched some of the history of how alcoholism (at least when the subject declares a willingness to participate in rehab) came to be protected under the ADA.
The rolls have been expanding steadily for years, at tremendous cost, and the new NPR report, by Chana Joffe-Walt, is just plain devastating:
A person on welfare costs a state money. That same resident on disability doesn’t cost the state a cent, because the federal government covers the entire bill for people on disability. So states can save money by shifting people from welfare to disability. And the Public Consulting Group is glad to help.
PCG is a private company that states pay to comb their welfare rolls and move as many people as possible onto disability.
More: Jagadeesh Gokhale, Cato Regulation mag (PDF)(program “facing insolvency in just three years”); Ronald Bailey, Reason; Reihan Salam; Wynton Hall, Breitbart.com (furious counterattack from some on Left). And Heather Mac Donald, with notable prescience, saw the problem coming more than 17 years ago.
P.S.: A disability lawyer’s response.
New from me at Cato: in covering the U.N. disabled-rights treaty, the Boston Globe bids to earn back its old nickname of “The Glib.” Earlier on the treaty here, here, etc.
Or, Prof. Bagenstos headlines it at Disability Law, “Second Circuit Holds Timely Arrival at Work Not Necessarily an Essential Job Function.” Reversing a summary judgment in favor of the employer, the judges found that a schizophrenic case worker whose medication caused morning drowsiness was entitled to a trial on his claim that he could have accomplished the job by working extra to make up for time missed early in the day. [McMillian v. City of New York; Disability Law; Paul Mollica, Outten & Golden]
“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice on behalf of a former office assistant who claims disability discrimination over a lifting requirement.” The job’s requirements, at the firm’s North Carolina headquarters, allegedly included moving heavy boxes of documents; according to the complaint, the law firm did not adequately consider accommodations such as letting her divide up the contents of the boxes and use push carts. Womble Carlyle declined to comment. [Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal]
But how many actually deserve one? [CBS Los Angeles via Alkon]
Yes, deaf lifeguard. The Sixth Circuit has ruled in favor of a would-be deaf lifeguard, saying not enough of an individualized inquiry was made into accommodating his possible placement in the life-saving position. Among the arguments the court found persuasive was that drowning persons typically do not call loudly for help, which of course leaves open the possibility that the calls for help might be coming from other persons. Some deaf persons have worked successfully as lifeguards, including Leroy Colombo, a championship swimmer who did rescues at Galveston, Tex. beaches. In the Sixth Circuit case, Oakland County, Mich., had cited safety concerns in not posting the applicant to a public wave pool. [Disability Law]
Not only can she, but it seems she does. [Austin American-Statesman]
For many towns and cities, the cost of building to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements can put the price of bus shelters out of reach. However, there’s no legal requirement to build such shelters in the first place. So bus patrons are free to go right on standing outside in the chilly rain or hot sun [Matt Caywood, Greater Greater Washington]
By a vote of 61 to 38 with two-thirds needed, the U.S. Senate today failed to ratify the far-reaching Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, criticized in this space before. This morning I published an article in the Daily Caller laying out some of the many bad provisions of this treaty, which the United States is very fortunate to be clear of (at least for the moment; proponents may come back next year and try to ratify it again in a slightly more favorable Senate). After the Senate vote, I added a followup at Cato at Liberty correcting persistent misinformation about the treaty that’s appeared everywhere from a New York Times editorial to a Media Matters blog post (assuming that’s really such a wide range any more).
A footnote: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which really should know better, backed the treaty, which it erroneously asserted “would not require any changes to existing law in order for the U.S. to comply with its provisions.” The Chamber’s most remarkable argument?
…ratification will help to level the playing field for U.S. businesses, which currently compete with foreign counterparts who do not have to adhere to our high standards when it comes to accommodation and accessibility for individuals with disabilities.
So it’s a misery-loves-company argument: if America is going to burden business with costly mandates, we’d better make sure competitors’ countries do so too. Not the Chamber’s finest hour. And as I explain in my Daily Caller piece, the Convention does indeed prescribe mandates that go beyond anything in the current ADA, including employment coverage for the smallest employers (now exempted from the ADA’s equivalent), requirements for “guides, readers and professional sign language interpreters, to facilitate accessibility to buildings and other facilities open to the public,” a new right of disabled persons not to be discriminated against in the provision of life insurance, and much, much more. If U.S. companies find those sorts of new mandates unwelcome, I hope they’ll let the Chamber know.
More: Supercilious Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank doesn’t bother to engage Sen. Mike Lee’s arguments; Washington Post editorial is less supercilious but no more substantive.
I joined Bay Area public radio host Marty Nemko (KALW) on Sunday for a discussion of the pluses and minuses of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and specifically as it applies to the workplace. I focused on the minuses, while disability rights attorney Claudia Center emphasized the pluses. You can listen here.
In August we linked a case in which a woman sued her government employer for rejecting her request to telecommute even though it would help to accommodate what she said was her sensitivity to the perfumes worn by co-workers. The court at that time declined to dismiss her claim as invalid as a matter of law; now, however, it has dismissed it because she failed to produce necessary evidence. [Jon Hyman, earlier]
The opening target, in what is expected to become a series, is Rosa Mexicano. “The restaurant is the first ‘most popular’ Zagat pick to be sued for ADA non-compliance after the U.S. Attorney’s office launched an initiative targeting the guide’s 50 most beloved eateries last year.” [NY Observer]