Pregnant employees who seek accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) need not be offered special treatment, the Fourth Circuit ruled on January 9, 2013. The ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals “on the basis of disability.” The PDA, enacted in 1978, amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to specifically prohibit discrimination in employment “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”
The New Jersey Appellate Division Holds that Requiring Self-Declared Alcoholics to Abstain From Alcohol Use and to Submit to Alcohol Testing Constitutes Handicap Discrimination in Employment
In a recent decision, A.D.P. v. ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, the New Jersey Appellate Division held that an employer’s drug and alcohol policy requiring recovering alcoholics to submit to periodic testing to determine whether they have used alcohol since returning to work after undergoing rehabilitation constitutes handicap discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 (the “LAD”). The decision presumably applies as well to recovering drug addicts. Employers with alcohol and drug policies should immediately evaluate and, if necessary, modify them in light of the Court’s decision.
EEOC v. United Airlines, Part II — Denying a Disabled Employee’s Request to Fill a Vacant Position as an Accommodation Because More Qualified Candidates are Available Remains Problematic Under the ADA
Four months ago we reported on the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upholding United Airlines’ position in a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that United did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by its policy of filling vacant positions with the most qualified candidate even though another employee, unable to perform his own job because of a disability, had applied for the vacant position as a reasonable accommodation. The three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit that issued that decision has now vacated its opinion and has decided the case in favor of the EEOC. The panel’s reversal of its position is not that surprising. The panel originally ruled in favor of United because it felt bound by a Seventh Circuit ruling in a similar case decided in 2000, EEOC v. Humiston-Keeling. The panel, however, questioned that earlier decision in light of the Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in US Airways, Inc. v. Barnett and thus recommended that the issue be considered by the court en banc (i.e. by the entire membership of the Seventh Circuit). The EEOC promptly moved for reconsideration en banc. Each member of the court expressed the view that EEOC v. Humiston-Keeling should be overruled and, in lieu of formally rehearing the case en banc, simply directed the original panel to vacate its decision and issue a new opinion.
The Gibbons Employment & Labor Department, and three of its attorneys, were among the 10 Gibbons practice areas and 20 individual attorneys ranked in the 2012 edition of the Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business. Chambers annually rates the nation’s leading business lawyers and law firms through comprehensive interviews with top companies, attorneys, and business executives, plus extensive supplementary research.
Denying a Disabled Employee’s Request to Fill a Vacant Position as an Accommodation Because More Qualified Candidates are Available Remains Problematic Under the ADA
Are employers obligated, as a reasonable accommodation, to fill a vacant position with an employee whose disability renders him unable to perform his own job when other candidates for the vacant position are more qualified? The position of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that employers have that obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was recently rejected by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. But the panel took the unusual step of recommending that the issue be considered by the court en banc (i.e. by the entire membership of the Seventh Circuit). In the great majority of circuits, the issue remains unsettled, and employers must tread carefully when responding to such accommodation requests.
Joining a growing number of jurisdictions, including the Third and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, covering the states of New York, Connecticut and Vermont, has held that under certain circumstances, an employer may be required to assist disabled employees with their commute to work as a reasonable accommodation under both the Americans with Disabilities Act(“ADA”) and the Rehabilitation Act. The Court’s decision in Nixon-Tinkelman v. N.Y. Dep’t of Health & Mental Hygiene highlights an employer’s obligation to consider reasonable accommodations requested by employees with disability-related commuting problems.
The 2011 edition of the Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business features 10 Gibbons practice areas and 18 individual attorneys ranked in the top tiers. The firm’s Employment and Labor Law Department and two of its attorneys in this area were ranked among the leaders in the state. Chambers annually rates the nation’s leading business lawyers and law firms through comprehensive interviews with top companies, attorneys, and business executives, plus extensive supplementary research.
Amendments to the Regulations Implementing Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Amendments to the regulations implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 28 CFR 35.101 et seq., which applies to public entities, went into effect on March 15, 2011. A public entity is defined in the regulations as: “(1) Any state or local government; (2) Any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government; and (3) The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, and any commuter authority (as defined in section 103(8) of the Rail Passenger Service Act).” See 28 CFR 35.104. On the same date, amendments to the regulations implementing Title III of the ADA, 28 CFR 36.101 et seq., which applies to public accommodations (including private businesses that fall within one of twelve categories established by the statute) and commercial facilities also went into effect.
In holding that an employee with cancer in remission is “disabled” under the expanded definition of “disability” in the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (“ADAAA”), a federal court has signaled a major change in the way courts have considered cases involving diseases that are in remission. The case is among the first in the nation to interpret the extent to which the Act broadens the scope of the conditions that may qualify as a “disability.” Specifically, the court addressed that portion of the ADAAA that defines “disability” to include “an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.”