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ADA Decisions from Supreme Court Affect Employment Practices for Health Care Employers

  • July 10, 2002

During the recently-ended 2001 term, the United States Supreme Court issued several decisions that will significantly affect the law governing the management of disabilities in the workplace. Broadly defined, that body of law includes the Americans with Disabilities Act and state disability discrimination laws, the Family and Medical Leave Act and state leave laws, and state workers' compensation statutes.

Concerning the ADA, the Supreme Court clarified the meaning of "disability" and settled disagreements among the federal appeals courts on the meaning of the terms "reasonable accommodation" and "direct threat." The Court also issued its first decision applying the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. In the Spring 2002 issue of The Health Care Employer, we reported two cases, Williams v. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Co., 534 U.S. ____ (2002), on the ADA's definition of "disability" as it applied to an employee with carpal tunnel syndrome, and Ragsdale v. Wolverine Worldwide, Inc., 534 U.S. ____ (2002), on the timing of the penalty for employers which have not provided the required notice to employees under the FMLA.

Before its summer recess, the Supreme Court issued two more decisions further clarifying the rights and obligations of employers managing employee disabilities, requests for leaves of absence, and requests for reasonable accommodations.

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