H.R. 3195 ADA Restoration Act was introduced in July, 2007 to "restore the intent and protections of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990." A hearing was held yesterday to discuss this bill.
This is critically important legislation, because lately more and more employees are being barred from protection by the ADA. You may remember this story about the pharmacist who was fired because of his diabetes. His employer, Walmart, denied him a 30 minute lunch break. Thirty minutes needed to eat his lunch and keep his blood sugar regulated. When the pharmacist sued, a judge threw out his lawsuit, because the judge did not consider him disabled since he took insulin and therefore deemed him not qualified for protection from the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Representative Steny Hoyer, who worked on the original bill in 1990 says that the Congress never intended to disqualify people from protection from discrimination because they were taking medication that improved their condition.
Employment is a huge, huge issue for people with disabilities. Without employment, how do we live independently, support ourselves, buy food and shelter, live a life? Without employment, we are relegated to relying on charity and government services, which just cannot be an economically sound way to run a country. Without employment, it's tough to share our perspectives, our talents.
Steve Kuusisto has a very informative analysis of the proposed modifications to the law. I urge you to read his entire post because it really clarifies the issues. He quotes Scott Lissner, a university ADA coordinator:
"This would clearly widen the scope of who is protected from discrimination (exclusionary practices and prejudicial practices resulting in differential treatment) but would not directly expand who is entitled to an accommodation. Though it is possible if fewer students, employees and program participants with disabilities are excluded there may be some increase in the accommodations provided.
The second critical change puts the ADA in sync with other civil rights legislation by moving from protecting only qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination to protecting all individuals from disability based discrimination."
Here's what the American Civil Liberties Union's press release has to say about this important legislation:
The American Civil Liberties Union today applauded the House Committee on Education and Labor for holding a hearing on H.R. 3195, the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) Restoration Act.
The original ADA passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in 1990 and was heralded by Republican and Democratic leaders as the "emancipation proclamation" for people with disabilities. However, due to a series of Supreme Court decisions that have narrowed the definition of disability under the ADA, the vast majority of ADA cases brought against private employers have been dismissed by the courts.
The ADA Restoration Act restores the original intent of the ADA by clarifying that anyone with an impairment, regardless of his or her successful use of treatments to manage the impairment, is entitled to seek a reasonable accommodation in the workplace.
Specifically, this legislation:
amends the definition of disability so that individuals whom Congress originally intended to protect from discrimination are covered under the ADA;
prevents the courts from considering the use of treatment or other accommodations when deciding whether an individual qualifies for protection under the ADA; and
focuses on whether individuals can demonstrate they were treated less favorably on the basis of disability.
The following can be attributed to ACLU Legislative Counsel Joanne Lin: "It is time to fix the problems created by the Supreme Court. The ADA Restoration Act would reestablish Congress' original intent in passing the ADA and restore the Act to its place as one of our country's great civil rights laws."
There are 243 cosponsors of the ADA Restoration Act. But, there is considerable opposition. Some say that the ADA Restoration Act will allow everyone to claim a disability, encourage "cheaters", and the expense to business will be overwhelming. I don't buy it. As stated above, the ADA is being chipped away to not cover those who need it. And the reason is not concern that for cheaters. And, most accommodations cost very little to the employer, while adding greatly to the employer's bottom line to have a productive employee.
These statistics from a talk by attorney Howard Rosenblum of Equip for Equality, bear repeating:
20% of reasonable accommodations cost nothing.
Over 70% cost $500 or less.
The median cost is $250.
A company makes $35 for each $1 spent on reasonable accommodations. Some of the benefits include hiring and retaining a qualified employee, increased productivity, and decreased turnover costs.
Certainly a lunch break for the Walmart pharmacist is not a costly accommodation.
This bill has bipartisan support in the House, but Senate support is not clear. Please contact your Representatives and Senators to support this important civil rights legislation.
Regular updates on the progress of the ADA Restoration Act can be found at: The American Association of People with Disabilities blog and at Reunify Gally and The Road to Freedom.